Crowds of people waited anxiously outside CHG Circa on Saturday night to see Sylvia Ji's fifth solo exhibition "La Catrina". In her most recent collection of paintings, Sylvia Ji has transformed the traditional haunting image of La Calavera Catrina, one of Mexico's most recognizable "Day of the Dead" icons, into a more delicate and reflective interpretation. Dimmed lights, high ceilings, and votive candles placed under many of the portraits added to the sacred feel of the work. Although the settings called for a solemn demeanor, the atmosphere was everything but that; as loud music pumped out of the speakers and conversations of those waiting outside intertwined with those inside, it was evident that everyone was there to pay their respects with devoted admiration.
Ji's paintings revolve around heavily adorned women found at a moment of profound meditation or prayer. Their somber expressions are contrasted by lively colored and patterned clothing, as well as embellished skull make-up. Deep rich hues of red, blue, orange, and green echo through Ji's paintings, giving life to wild roses, calendulas, and fresh blood dripping like tears. Many are depicted with closed eyes and head leaned forward, as though succumbing to an all-powerful state of melancholy. A few look straight ahead, still pensive, but eyes filled with intensity and slight vigor to fight through their grief. Sylvia Ji encapsulates the defenseless side of The Elegant Skull by infusing these renderings with emotions that not only surface from a haunting facade, but also beautifully bleed onto every inch of the composition.
Sylvia Ji's "La Catrina" will be featured at CHG Circa through December 1st.
Words by Jessica Portillo