Buddha, Jesus, and The Pope mingle in this month's exhibition at Creativity Explored. Santos y Otros Creatures features a balanced mix of prints, paintings, and sculptural works tied together by religious or otherworldly threads. Artist Victor Cartagena curated the show. He is also an instructor and heads the printmaking program at the organization, which provides a huge, bright studio and classes for local artists with developmental disabilities.
Bertha Otoya likes to copy published writings in hand-written cursive. Lifting texts from famous sources (I noticed the names Freud and Foucault), she carefully copies select phrases, punctuating each word with a period, which adds a sense of reduction or choppiness to the writings. Otoya's reinterpreted words multiply on a large collection of monoprinted strips of paper hanging vertically in the gallery's window. A white statue of a one-armed Jesus on a one-armed cross floats amidst the prints; Jesus is also covered in script. It seems no santo is safe from the artist's pen. Lettered wooden ovals hang beyond the white curtain of prints, rounding out this beautifully obsessive installation. Inside the gallery, Otoya's rewritings reappear in the background of a diptych print of snakes' heads, and on a long scroll that stretches across the gallery's ceiling, unfurling out of a golden box. The scroll is fifteen feet of hand-lettered text borrowed from Mexican Folk Retablos and other sources.
Of the many intriguing prints in the show, Quintin Rodriguez's Un Santo Con Problemas Fisicas, grabbed me first. His rendering of a skeleton with shortened limbs printed in black on gold paper seems to illustrate a believable narrative of an imperfect saint who deserves to be immortalized in a gilded frame like this. Rodriguez also takes the prize for funniest Pope portrait in another print.
Not to be overshadowed by human creatures, El Cadejo, the folkloric "dog/devil" makes an appearance in sculptural form. Crafted by Maria Berrios, Cadejo watches over the gallery's entrance covered in black yarn with fangs and red eyes. The dog's body is layered; colorful fabric radiates from underneath his crocheted coat.
If I could bring home one santo or otro creature to protect me, it would be Ernesto Sosa's Magdalena, a fabric sculpture of a female figure wearing a yellow satin dress, with her limbs carefully wrapped in gold tulle, and perfect, hot pink, glittery shoes tied to her feet. To all you atheists, don't shy away from this show because of its subjects. As Cartagena explains, "For the saints that are created by the artists at Creativity Explored, there is no need for the benediction of a church or the certification of a religion. No authority is called upon to validate these very personal saints and creatures that our artists carry within their hearts and minds."
Santos y Otros Creatures is on view through February 11, 2010 at Creativity Explored, 3245 16th Street, San Francisco.