Three Georgia Artists Tackle Issues of Homeland and Identity in Vibrant Paintings

A whirl of color, figuration, and impressions of far-off homelands come together in “Three Dreamlike Expressions” at Studio 905 on Juniper in Atlanta, Georgia. Brikena Boci, Reinaldo Vargas, and Felix Berroa, a trio of international artists who have immigrated to the U.S., demonstrate the ways in which the energy of displacement can be harnessed as a creative force.

Each work here hovers between ethereal and earthly, abstract and representational. Cuban-American Reinaldo Vargas, who was formerly a poster designer in Havana and is now based in Atlanta, presents complicated paintings which mark a moment in his career when he boldly steps away from pure realism. Jumbles of kaleidoscopic elements nod to mysticism in many forms, with a special emphasis on the Afro-Caribbean religion Santeria. Similarly, Felix Berroa pulls symbolic imagery from the traditions of his native Dominican Republic. Followers depicts a figure in ceremonial dress with face raised to the heavens crossing the canvas, trailed by a procession of people who seem to be dancing. Other works are steeped in the concept of a sacred female—fusing the forms of women with those of angels or birds.

Works by Brikena Boci explore a more personal understanding of femininity. Born in Albania and now residing in Georgia, Boci unpacks the gap between her life as a female artist and her traumatic wartime upbringing in Kosovo and Albania. In My Eyes (2015) offers startling imagery of a painful birth into a world of chaos, while the complex adornments of the “Nusja Bride” series render the traditional garb of her homeland with gentle attention to detail, seen also in Anonime 1991-2003 (2013-2014). These embroidered works mark a return to materials familiar to her childhood, which Boci notes often consisted of playing with self-made toys constructed from scavenged textiles and fiber.

“Three Dreamlike Expressions” manifests the importance of one’s background to the development of an artistic practice while also arguing that creative identity does not need a permanent home to thrive. The diverse cultural identities of the artists on view reflect that of America itself, each assembling their experiences into rich, universal expressions of self.  


—K. Sundberg


Three Dreamlike Expressions” is on view at Studio 905 on Juniper, Atlanta, Jun. 12–Jul. 12, 2015.


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