Alexandra Eldridge and Santiago Perez speaking at the opening reception for their exhibition, A Kinship with All Things, March 6th through March 22nd, 2020.
A Kinship With All Things is a two-person exhibition with paintings by Alexandra Eldridge and Santiago Pérez. Both artists paint dreamlike, mythic landscapes populated by animals and human/animal hybrid figures all of whom navigate a changing— often magical— world.
Alexandra Eldridge creates poetically rich and evocative paintings that explore the depths of imagination and connections that exist in the spiritual and emotional terrain beneath the realm of rational thought.
For this series, Eldridge gathered photographs from portrait studios mostly dating from 1870-1910. Using the portraits as starting points, she paints the subjects morphing with animals. Deer, wolves, owls, snow leopards, and doves pose politely while the magical and natural world converges around them. The resulting vignettes seem almost mystical, both a visionary conjuring as well as an index of the past.
Alexandra Eldridge had over forty solo exhibitions and participated in many group shows throughout the United States and abroad. Alexandra has been commissioned to paint murals at the Place de Vosges, Paris, and her work has been used on covers of over twenty books of poetry. Her work can be found in innumerable private and public collections.
Santiago Pérez is known for highly narrative paintings that read like surreal fairy tales. In his work, strange figures repeat and reappear in chimerical settings and situations. Perez’s cadre of fantastic characters function as allegories for the human condition, and the vignettes they populate explore wild adventures of the imagination.
In this exhibition Pérez follows a new character, The Deer, which to the artist functions as the embodiment of wild joy and natural innocence, and who, in these works, navigates an incredible world where nature and human invention have interwoven in strange new dreamlike scenarios.
Santiago Pérez was raised in Texas and now lives in New Mexico. His work has been widely exhibited and is included in the collections of the Albuquerque Museum, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, and various private and corporate collections.
Excerpt from Alexandra Eldridge Artist Talk :
Inuit poem translated by Edward Field
In the very earliest time, when both people and animals lived on earth, A person could become an animal if he wanted to and an animal could become a human being. Sometimes they were people And sometimes animals And there was no difference. All spoke the same language. That was the time when words were like magic. The human mind had mysterious powers… Nobody could explain this: That’s the way it was.
Similarly, this body of work is not interested in making sense. Instead it emerges from an imaginative state of mind that seeks to disrupt rational thought. As a fairytale or myth might seem absolutely mad, it is actually offering us some inner knowledge that really cannot be found in any other way. When rabbit ears grow out of a young boys head and owls and lizards join in on the fun, we might begin to observe unfamiliar, invisible powers, that we had no idea existed. Or when a young girl in a blue dress, donning a dove’s head, offers forgiveness through a rose, to a cat who has caused the demise of her bird friend, we might understand when Blake says, ”Forgiveness of each vice, such are the gates of Paradise.
The act of entering into animal consciousness renews and refreshes. It has the power to awaken us to our instinctual and emotional lives. Joseph Beuys felt animals possessed spiritual energies needed by humans. Rilke said “animals see the open”. The commingling of human and animal, links us back to ancient shamanistic practices, to the oldest cave paintings. Putting on the head of a Lynx can give us power and presence and our cat allies might just show up as well. Imagining being an animal generates empathy and emotions and cultivates a visionary relationship to the world that connects us all. “I am in you and you are in me”.
You might ask, why do you use images from Victorian photographic studios? Because a friend called me a few years back and said she had found a box of glass plate negatives from a children’s portrait studio in the attic of an old house in Houston, TX., and she knew I could make use of them. I am forever grateful for her trust in me. I also grew up in an old Victorian house, full of antiques, with a father who wrote and illustrated books on Victorian architecture. This time period holds a certain magic for me. The imagination was in full swing with the advent of photography, the early days of psychoanalysis, a wild fascination with optical gadgetry, and the invention of the telegraph. The religious movement, Spiritualism, was at it’s height of popularity. And Spirit photography attempted to give proof of it’s core belief, that the spirit world wants to connect to the living. This work might be a latter day version of the Spirit photograph as the unseen is coming forward and giving new life to it’s inhabitants. Surprise visitations from the animal world in the form of shape shifting, brings us closer to the unconscious. New cosmologies present themselves and ordinary settings become dreamscapes. And so, a young boy, who is crowned with the head of a fox and is meditating on a sacred object, enters the quantum field… a flower burst from his chair, and then, to his great delight, he experiences a “kinship with all things”.