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April 1 - 25, at OCCCA, Orange County

by Daniella Walsh

Bobbie Mandel, “Illumalith,” 2004,
mixed media on wood panel, 48 x 57”.

Bobbie Mandel, “Gneiss,”
2004, o/c, 31 x 22”.
Inbetween is a three-artist show comprised of paintings by Lilla Hangay, Bobbie Mandel and Laura Siqueiros. The artists chose this somewhat vexing title after conversations revealed that they were all between directions--not quite rid of old concepts and just on the cusp of new ones.

What the three have in common is a preoccupation with the human condition, but that is where the similarities end. Bobby Mandel, for example, has given up drawing the human form, using depictions of intricate arrangements of stones as metaphors for birth and death, imprisonment and freedom, permanence, endurance and transience. Occasionally, such as in After the Garden of Eden or Blue Ladder, she touches on issues of spirituality.

Mandel paints, for the most part, in an earth-toned palette, interspersing it with small fields of muted shades of gray and blue. She layers oil paints and other mediums on canvas, using paper, cold wax and pumice to add texture and visual interest. The result is a challenge to viewers that they interpret the varied forms as anything but piles of rock. Mandel's stated thesis of rock as a metaphor for man's travails is intriguing if only partially convincing here.

Laura Siqueiros draws and paints in a style that is somewhat reminiscent of l'art naif. Simple lines tell intricate stories that are based on the history of her native Mexico or, as here, of her research into the history of medicine. She uses scenarios taking place in medical offices or paintings based on medical literature and posters to address issues of racism, of fear of unknown persons and fear of the unknown in general. The latter is embodied by a black bird/man-like form that either hovers on the margins of some canvases or dominates a composition outright. Zodiac Man for example is based on a medical poster that links various organs and extremities to signs of the zodiac. (In the past, doctors linked the stars to parts of the body to diagnose ills most likely to befall them.)

Then again, she addresses issues surrounding appearance and the way people judge others in She May Look Clean, But. . . She based the painting on a World War II poster warning soldiers of the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases. However, she altered the premise slightly by dressing three men in civilian clothes and adding a story line that hints at various medical procedures. The near-ubiquitous bird form is meant to foretell misfortune of some sort.

Laura Siqueiros, “She May be
Clean--But,” 2004, encaustic/pencil/
charcoal/oil stick on wood, 36 x 48”.

Laura Siqueiros, “Gente Iffy” 2004, encaustic/pencil/
oil stick on canvas, 34 x 52”.

Lilla Hangay, “Plusminuszero,”
2004, oil pastel and color
pencil on wood, 9 x 11”.

Lilla Hangay, “Fourth is Gone,”
2004, oil pastel and color
pencil on wood, 7.5 x 7”.
This particular painting also raises issues of sexism still inherent in much of modern sex education. Siqueiros paints in oil, adding thin layers of encaustic wax to give the works, kept mostly in a monochromatic, earthy palette, greater depth. The result is an intellectually engaging combination that tells much but leaves even more to the imagination.

Lilla Hangay uses the human form to suggest mankind as a community and, at the same time, the isolation of individuals. Painted in oil pastel on irregular wooden forms, figures, often isolated to resemble embryos in pod-like constructs, are drawn in a heavy linear style reminiscent of European expressionists. Vertigo, for example, shows a variety of ethnically varied, mask-like faces with a lone African tribal-mask drawing immediate attention. Hangay's palette and brushwork are the strongest here. Adding to the impact is her use of found wood panels. Using holes, warps and other disfigurements to advantage, she creates a three-dimensional effect that underscores her inherent celebration of the diversity of mankind while also paying homage to the individual.