Originally from New Mexico, Oakland-based artists Madeleine Tonzi and Felicia Gabaldon have been friends since they were 15 years old, evident in “Distant Reverence,” their dual show at Faultline Artspace. Gabaldon’s artwork, which includes imagery of strong, almost warrior-like women fashioned from common depictions of the region’s folkloric heroines, paralleled with colorful animals native to the Southwest are far more figurative than Tonzi’s colorful, surreal landscapes that exist between the often obfuscated area between abstraction and form with colorful swirls winding around suggestions of verdant flora, cloudscapes, and various bodies of water. The complementary nature of their styles, informed by similar influences of the desert landscape, manifests as a nostalgic illustration of the natural beauty of the American Southwest while also re-examines it: from basic stereotypes and the formulaic constructs of typical representations of the region to utopian visions and romanticized beliefs that even they the artists have held.
Gabaldon’s figures, familiar and perhaps comfortable to audiences outside of the region, actually prove how differently they are perceived to those like the artist who are perhaps more attune to the region’s vision of itself. . With this iconic, folkloric imagery Felicia seeks to examine how these externally-formed stereotypes are internalized, and how they represent a ‘distant reverence of self discovery, culture, and historical elements.’ Gabaldon’s paintings show how a reproduction of human experience “influence the formation of individual and communal systems of belief.” Tonzi’s paintings on panel are informed by a deeply personal response to her formative experiences in unique area. Her processes are a vehicle to take her to her own past, which because of its distance both in miles and in time, can at times take on notions of a distant Utopia, romanticized and manipulated from the fragments of memory that remain. As a result, her landscapes that capture fleeting, idealized moments is a collection of the real and the imagined, revering it distantly as both insider and outsider.
Distant Reverence will be at Faultline Artspace, 815 High St. through August 9, 2014.