The Austin Chronicle

Arts Review

Reviewed by Jacqueline May, April 1, 2005, Arts

Sky Above, Earth Below

2040 Gallery, through April 30

Sharing an interest in the spiritual aspect of art, Stella Alesi and Connie Arismendi have produced a number of new works that resonate with one another. Faithful to her trademark style, Arismendi has used the papel picado and altar-making traditions of Mexico as inspiration for several of her pieces. Vellum paper has been painstakingly cut out and suspended above the surfaces of paintings or above the wall in some cases. The vellum's translucency interacts with the opacity of drawings on it and with the shadows cast beneath plant forms to create an intriguing complexity. In her statement, the artist explains that this imagery has to do with the ceremonial use of plants and with her spiritual connection to nature. Likewise, the delicate, floating character of the paper could be interpreted as referring to matters of faith.

Stella Alesi is a yoga practitioner whose meditative efforts have inspired her art. With 16 works in the show, it is clear Alesi has not been slacking off. She has continued her series of works in which the formal, multilateral symmetry of mandala forms is integrated with naturalistic bird images. The concept of the type of bird within the circle and the colors used to depict it correspond to the traditional coloration and concepts of specific chakras. For example, Muladhara/Magnificent Frigate uses a group of magnificent frigate birds, each with its characteristic brilliant red throat pouch, within a tree by a seashore. The tree's twisted bonsai loveliness extends beyond the bounds of the circle into a brilliant, cadmium red rosette form of fourfold symmetry. "Muladhara" refers to the root chakra of Kundalini tradition, and its color is red. This artwork is simply spectacular. Another work, Manipura, refers to the solar plexus chakra, which is represented by yellow. One of its basic meanings is change. The bird in this image is a scarlet tanager, which is brilliant yellow and then transitions to red when breeding. Enlightenment is well represented by these works' beauty.

Alesi will give an artist lecture on Thursday, April 21, 7pm, at 2040 Gallery.

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