LOS ANGELES—Shulamit Nazarian just announced to present By the Lights of Their Eyes, an exhibition featuring six artists whose works employ tropes from fantasy, mysticism, science fiction, and horror. Informed by diverse sources from religious stories to contemporary cinema, the artists in the exhibition draw from personal experience to create fictional narratives that examine social and political issues.
The exhibition’s title, By the Lights of Their Eyes, derives from the convention of animators depicting cartoon characters in an otherwise pitch-black scene by showing only their eyes. The darkness heightens the anxiety and suspense of the moment while acknowledging the presence and potential of the central characters. Similarly, the exhibition’s artists use elements of dark fantasy to capture the viewer’s attention and give agency to their subjects as they explore issues of femininity, race, religion, place, and politics.
London-based photographer Juno Calypso uses her own body to create a fictional character who finds herself alone, consumed by artifice, and confined in a honeymoon suite. Staged in a surreal fallen utopia, with nods to science fiction films, the lone protagonist engages with devices of beauty as she performs solitary studies in the rituals of seduction and the labored construction of beauty and femininity.
Los Angeles-based Roni Shneior creates absurd, eccentric, and at times erotic, sculptures and paintings. Born in Israel, Shneior immigrated to the United States and became fascinated with the mysterious and often-psychedelic natural environment of Southern California. In the studio, her organic forms become anthropomorphic, resulting in sculptures and paintings that are both humorous and grotesque, existing in a space between the artifice of lo-fi movie props and the reality of our fragile bodies.
San Francisco-based Katie Dorame creates paintings based on movie stills. Of Native American descent, Dorame explores the way in which Native roles are portrayed throughout the history of film, with special attention to how that history could be altered. Her paintings often portray Native American actors outside of their traditional placement in Westerns, and instead find them centered in atypical, fantastical dramas. In her most recent works, Dorame’s subjects take the form of pirates in narratives replete with sea creatures, ghosts, and aliens. Dorame often paints masks to reference the actor’s ability to assume the position of the other, as well as Hollywood’s willingness to typecast actors of color.
Brooklyn-based painter Naudline Pierre creates works that serve as portals into a mysterious world. Pierre’s paintings are informed by religious narratives from her upbringing, and are laced with spiritual references and personal mythology. Caught between the beautiful and the ghostly, the works show intimate, otherworldly scenes in which characters find themselves in moments of embrace, gaining protection and empowerment through touch, as they explore the complexities of their existence.
Los Angeles-based Sara Issakarian creates paintings that relate to her memories of growing up in Iran. Her works are often constructed on a grand scale; with narratives of destruction and hope, they are in dialogue with classical history paintings. The depictions vacillate between reality and fiction, dissolving into scenes that use fantasy to synthesize personal memory and collective experience as she addresses social rituals in Iran.
Los Angeles-based photographer Ilona Szwarc creates works that often employ a surrogate for her own likeness to stage serial moments in a clinical transition from youthful beauty into the grotesque. Using techniques from online make-up tutorials and onstage movie make-up and props, Szwarc is able to examine the female body as a site for personal and cultural transformation, with the construction of identity, and of an ideal self, at the core of her practice.