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September 4 - October 3, 2002 at Saddleback College Art Gallery, Orange County

by Roberta Carasso

“La Petite Mort (after Fragonard),” from “The
Jequirity Suite”, 2002, mixed media, 54 x 54”.

"Souffleur” from “TheJequirity Suite”,
2002, mixed media, 36 x 36”.

“Lair,” from “TheJequirity Suite”,
2002, mixed media, 36 x 22”.

“Dreadnought,” from “TheJequirity
Suite”, 2002, mixed media, 36 x 36.

A tiny bright red seed harvested mostly in the tropics, the jequirity, is a metaphor for life's dualities, the subject of The Jequirity Suite, created by Eric Mondriaan and Myrella Moses. For the artists, the innocent looking seed embodies all of humankind's conflicting passions. Some wear the bead for adornment; others are lured by its danger. A portion of the jequirity can act as an aphrodisiac, but too much causes death. Like a double edged sword, the seed is the ultimate vanity for those who seek to defy death. Therefore, each minute kernel represents the flipside of desire, eternal opposition, the possibility of excess going awry, beauty turned to terror, and desire to despair.

The artistic team raises the curtain on a highly dramatic exhibition that arouses the intellect and senses through individual tableaus set in a theatrical environment. The work is a blend of visual poetry and storytelling, enticing viewers to engage in each psychological tale the metaphor evokes. Each work is a dual collaboration; Mondriaan and Moses create on the same canvas and yet maintain their individual identities. The confluence of their artistic approach adds another dimension to the philosophical notion of the duality metaphor. Moses, the sculptor lays down the foundation of a white, hard, sculpted canvas that looks much like marble carvings, these stand in for the solidity of reality and truth. Mondriaan, the painter, works in color in a skillfully realistic manner that expresses the presence of thoughts and emotions, the underpinnings of desire. Together they compose a visual duet that renders each scenario with great intensity. Universal conundrums and inner secrets which have beset human beings forever find their expression in each of the nine canvases.

In Souffleur, which is a theatrical prompter, the artists deal with the individual's inner voice that constantly tells us what to do and how to do it. The voice upsets our equilibrium as we question which road to take and whether we took the right one. Mondriaan's road, painted on top of Moses' crumpled sheets, informs that the dilemma of choice is forever perplexing.

In Wishing Well Moses and Mondriaan scrutinize the dynamic force of wanting and the possibility of yearning for the wrong thing. The painting demonstrates how desire often has a negative ripple effect, as possession of the thing attained may sour in the end. Here, Moses sculpts three-dimensional ripples over which Mondriaan paints illusionistic water swells, creating a trompe l'oeil effect and demonstrating that, beyond the profound content, each canvas can be fully engaged for its sheer aesthetic pleasure. Lair makes use of each artist's tactile style to represent courage and fear. Above the center of the painting glares an ominous hole in a tree, suggesting a presence lurking within. Usually dimensional and puffed up, Moses' marble-like folds are held tightly here, as if to sequester something beneath them. With these internal spatial arrangements, the artists suggest that fear and seclusion are limiting. The alternative, courage, or being true to oneself, can only result when one bravely emerges from a tight, self-imposed confinement.

Probably the most sensual painting, and the one that captures the essence of the exhibition, is La Petite Mort, the little death, a name the French give to orgasm. Based on The Bolt by Jean Honore Fragonard, the painting zeros in on just the corner of Fragonard's bed. In this contemporary take the white draperies are pulled aside by a stiletto heel, revealing the seduction scene: a man's bed on which a portion of a delicate yellow dress is placed. The background is composed of dark, ominous red velvet curtains which beg the question of who is predator and who is the prey. Woman uses her innocence and fragility as a ploy equal in force to man's persistence and strength. This is the eternal conundrum of sexual drive that can, like the jequirity seed, change the balance and manipulate the outcome to opposing ends.