Contrary to popular belief, the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) was not a Surrealist painter, though many have pegged her as one. Perhaps it’s the darkness of the collective memory of her, the physical and psychological pain she recorded in her self-portraits rendered in kaleidoscopic colors and laden with fantastical imagery. Kahlo, whose life has become mythologized since her death at the relatively young age of 47, was indeed afflicted with personal tragedy (and, of course, is often remembered for her tumultuous marriage to Diego Rivera), but found painting to be a form of therapy, begun during convalescence after a school bus accident left her bedridden. ‘Indiana’s Boy’ by Magdalena Segovia is on view at Domont Studio Gallery. All of this leads us to another Mexican painter, one who currently lives in Indianapolis. Magdalena Segovia is also a figurative painter who takes as her subject her family and friends — although they are stylized. Frida’s favorite subject was herself, but she also painted others close to her.
Segovia’s paintings, on view at Domont Studio Gallery through Jan. 8, remind us of the healing qualities of images, the balm that is a work of art. Segovia’s art, while it may serve as a form of therapy for the artist, is also restorative to the viewer: Segovia’s images are easily viewed, sunny idealizations of human relations. Mothers and their children, sisters and brothers, children at play, musicians performing; these are some of the subjects on view in Exploring the Madonna. The paintings are intended to explore the way women relate to love and their loved ones, according to gallery owner John Domont, but this is just a starting point.
Indeed, this is the feeling of all of Segovia’s work here. A purity of light, the brightness of the Mexican sun is evident in all her paintings. Segovia’s images glean what’s beautiful about human connection. Her paintings pay homage to any happy child, any adoring mother. Brightly colored streamers reiterate the celebration; a reflection, perhaps, of the gaiety associated with much Latino art.
While Frida Kahlo did not ultimately heal from her wounds —among them the suffering of numerous miscarriages — Segovia offers curative images rather than the often somber ones of Kahlo. As Domont told me, referring to a collaborative painting by Segovia and Domont (the only one in the exhibition), “It’s sort of the healing of the feminine. It’s both a combination of the manger scene and the apple cart … there’s no snake, there’s no evil, there’s no degrading of the feminine.”
Ultimately, it’s the primal beauty of Segovia’s art that is so moving. Here is an opportunity to slip away into a world of joy and love where no darkness colors the horizon or emerges up from the depths beyond a slip of tide in the distance. Segovia’s worlds are lovingly wrought and a joy to behold … would that they were the rule and never the exception.
Exploring the Madonna, paintings by Magdalena Segovia, is on view through Jan. 8 at Domont Studio Gallery, 545 S. East St., 685-9634. Call for hours.