Critics’ Picks

Elizabeth Malaska, Wake to Weep, 2017, oil, Flashe, charcoal, and pencil on canvas, 36 x 47".

Portland

Elizabeth Malaska

Russo Lee Gallery
805 NW 21st Avenue
February 1 - March 31

Elizabeth Malaska’s recent paintings celebrate the pathos and resilience of the anima, asserting its reproductive and spiritual power over millennia of oppression. At the heart of each work is a figure, or figures, embedded within a nonhierarchical matrix of oneiric visions, plants, decorative objects, and patterned surfaces. Feminist psychoanalyst and artist Bracha Ettinger would describe such spaces as ones of “undifferentiated otherness.”

The artist’s supernatural bodies grow and contort, their limbs and breasts multiplying into Gordian knots worthy of mythical ancients such as Nut, the Egyptian goddess of the night sky and a formidable maternal figure. In Apocrypha (all works 2017) we see a representation, in the style of Egyptian tomb painting, of a goddess reclining on her side with her feet flat in the air. She wears just tube socks and postpartum hospital underwear, though her face is dressed too—in Picasso-esque distortions. Kindred to the work of other women painters such as Nicole Eisenman, Malaska’s pieces exorcise and overcome the clichéd representations of the feminine form seen throughout art history. In another work, Wake to Weep, we see a female with head in hand, lost in despair. But she’s holding a cell phone to her face. Is she taking a selfie? Reading the news? While old magic dwells in these phenomenal paintings, Malaska summons it into the present, as if to prepare for what’s next.