Self-preservation and the challenge of relationships are underlying themes of “Known, Knowing and Unknown,” a one-person show by Caroline Colby at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center. The Florida native recently completed a two-year faith-based artist residency with Transform, a Christian community of artists with a base in KC.
“The idea of oneness in the Bible is permanent and irreversible,” Colby said in a recent interview. “But what happens when it’s made up of two people constantly in flux, with regard to themselves and one another?”
She explores this question in lively gouaches and paintings on panel picturing a nude female struggling and striving within ornately patterned settings. Organic shapes evoking clouds, flowers, trees and leaves symbolize “her recollections, feelings and experiences,” Colby said, but the environment is also intended to be “a metaphor for the unknown.”
In both series, Colby reflects her admiration for artists such as Frida Kahlo and Peter Doig and their use of nature as a symbol for emotional states.
Colby approaches her figurative work as an act of reclamation, transforming the female nude from object of the gaze to active agent. “I wanted to take (the gaze) back for myself,” Colby said. “My female figures are not the most ideal, but offer a vehicle for us to feel our humanity.”
In the gouache “Subsumed” (2016), a mask-faced female figure protected by a cage-like exoskeleton strides through a cosmic darkness, menaced by whiplash tentacles evoking viscera. Her plight is frightful, yet the flowers that light the darkness in her wake portend her escape.
The gouaches, measuring 6 by 8 inches, are precursors to the paintings. The exhibit will feature 12 gouaches, along with 10 3-by-4-foot paintings executed in oil on wood panel. The exhibit’s title, Colby said, is a play on Genesis 4:1, “And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived . . .” “That’s the first time the Bible mentions ‘knew’ as a metaphor for sexual union,” Colby said.
“Caroline Colby: Known, Knowing and Unknown” opens with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. March 2 and continues through April 28 at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, 2012 Baltimore. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. For more information 816.474.1919 or www.leedy-voulkos.com.