New York

Nancy Azara

The old question of whether the artist is the one who chooses the subject or the subject the artist is raised anew in Nancy Azara’s show. For Azara, the “eternal feminine” has long been a preoccupation, and, in her work, this most elusive figure has found a gifted contemporary interpreter. Eschewing literary representation, she renders this subject abstractly, employing rich physical properties and imagistic associations to suggest her various aspects and guises.

This group of carved, painted, and gold-leafed reliefs brings to mind sacred objects used to celebrate the “goddess” in both Western and non-Western cultures. By her scrutiny of the female deity, Azara acknowledges the persistent character of a universal and ancient need. At the same time, the mode of abstract expression she has selected suggests a distinctly late-20th century form of goddess worship.

In Pink Crown, 1990, the swelling fullness as well as the linear and planar tensions that animate the compact structure are suggestive of the fertile sensuality associated with Mother Nature. Here the paint and gold leaf imbue the surfaces with a vitality, inviting us to read the works as life-giving. By contrast, in the relief Old Goddess, 1991, the gold leaf and painted colors serve to heighten the scars and depressions carved into the surfaces, intensifying a feeling of decline and the seasonal waning of nature.

In Goddess Wall, 1991, a freestanding installation piece, Azara has created a towering structure that appears to bridge earth and heaven. From its peaked top adorned with gold leaf, to the suggestion of a red heart, to the darker, outwardly curving shape of the bottom, the impenetrable construction of the dense, tactile facade speaks of the imponderable power of goddess presence

Ronny Cohen