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Artist Theresa Chromati beside one of her works. Marilú Báez
Theresa Chromati plants her scrotum flowers in CAC Malaga
Art and culture

Theresa Chromati plants her scrotum flowers in CAC Malaga

The US artist uses colour and glitter in her works to emphasise freedom and the empowerment of women

Francisco Griñán

Malaga

Friday, 12 April 2024, 16:27

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As soon as you enter the room a sculpture of open flower petals on a stem shaped like male genitalia assaults the visitor‘s eyes, much like that giant plant from the 1986 film, Little Shop of Horrors. Truth be told, the eyes do not deceive. We are looking at a scrotum flower, the most recurring motif in the iconography of Theresa Chromati‘s work to date. This theme dominates her exhibition - Rehearsal for Joy - at Malaga’s Contemporary Art Centre.

Even her very surname shouts colour. This USA-born artist with Guyanese origins uses colour and glitter in her pieces to contrast with her powerful, social message of empowerment and freedom of women in this exhibition made up of eight large canvases. They have been created specifically for this exhibition, her first European exhibition in a major gallery.

Marilú Báez

"With my work I want to show my high regard for, and pay tribute to, the audacity of women who keep stepping out, despite the difficulties, and who demand their freedom," said Theresa Chromati, speaking last Friday at her exhibition press launch in Malaga, accompanied by CAC Malaga’s director Helena Juncosa.

The press conference was staged to be immersive, placing attendees amid the works of art. A circular metal structure holds the paintings, splashed with colour and different versions of the scrotum flowers, all arranged in clockwise fashion.

Her oil paintings have yellows, blues, reds and greens altogether, mixing the abstract and the figurative through the "deconstruction of the female body", as pointed out by Juncosa. The aim is to invite the viewer to reflect on diversity, identity and the role of women in today’s society, particularly African-American women.

"This journey is not linear, but circular and inward-looking to show a woman who is fighting and she is supported by this metal structure that affords us shelter and protects us from the outside," explained Chromati. She openly admitted that her work is very much a self-portrait and all the paintings have something of her in them. In fact, her long, black, knee-length hair is easily spotted in her work.

Shiny and all that glitters

That message of a powerful and yet, at the same time, vulnerable woman, who picks herself up after a setback contrasts with what might seem to be frivolous motifs, like the glitter present in all her compositions, but the artist gives it a different, deeper meaning.

"Glitter is important to show the different layers of femininity since, depending on how you look at that glitter and move around as you look at it, the work also appears different," she explained. Chromati also uses fabrics in her work, rolling and twisting them to form peaks to represent nipples "as a motif projecting the female form while also showing that they can be a phallic motif”.

Marilú Báez

The interplay of genders is particularly visible in her scrotum flowers. "The body is the most masculine part of my figures in which I look for a balance of forces between the masculine and the feminine to find momentum to move forward," said the artist.

She twists her figures to show the internal conflict, but also the diversity. "I do not believe in showing the woman's body in one, single way, but rather that the movement in her expresses the search for freedom". All in all, this very colourful, unique exhibition shows off the artist‘s planting of a highly personal, almost private, circular garden until 2 June.

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