Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"an equation of meaning" malia schuthies

malia schulthies, self portrait, mixed media on paper, 22"x30"

it was a rather strange confluence of events that led to the discovery of malia schultheis' enormous artistic talent by the outside world. a unique recipe of friendship, a long ago blind date, and professional bookkeeping services twisted the ribbon of fate that led to fenario's january-february exhibition, "an equation of meaning." we were already keenly aware, from working with her in a professional capacity, that malia was intelligent, beautiful and kind hearted. but she really pulled a rabbit from her hat when, a few months ago, she brought in a few pieces of her art to be photographed. she had never exhibited her art before, and did not come in seeking favors. but as soon as we laid our eyes on her moody, cerebral charcoals and sensual oils we knew we'd had buried treasure right beneath our feet. i think, however strange it may seem to fans of her work, she may have been a little taken aback when brent offered her a solo show. malia has a productive career already, and thought of her work more as a "hobby." some hobby. 

malia's first solo show (and first show ever of any kind!!!!) opened here at fenario january 16th. it was our first shot at hosting an opening mid-month, without the automatic crowds drawn in by first friday. while the turnout wasn't enormous, the response to the work was overwhelmingly positive, and we had the added pleasure of surprising many people who didn't know that we had an opening and drawing them in off the street like moths to a flame. people were particularly surprised to discover that is was malia's first show, citing the maturity of her style and execution as causes for their surprise at her modest exhibition history.

malia schultheis, hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, mixed media on paper, 21"x27" (framed)

somewhere along the line, while malia was "hobbying," she developed a clear, concise artistic voice. the impressiveness of her masterful technique is matched only by the complexity of the symbolism that she uses. though malia's talent is obviously, in large part, natural, her technique matured and blossomed under the tutilage of lcc professor js bird. her teacher's influence can be seen in the mythological references and broken planes of space. malia has a  keen understanding of the use of space, and her compositions benefit from their breathing room. images rarely seem cramped, and this ease of expansiveness creates a sense of unhurried grace.

i love the play of scale in concept vs. truth. it is such a comfortable and yet unsettling territory. and being the learning sponge that i am, i particularly love the step by step origami instructions in the top quadrant of the piece. elements like this and the detailed diagrams of the various chakras in child's pose, amongst other pseudo instructions scattered across the other pieces, give a sense of knowledge being passed on without the stuffy,  patronizing feel of the academic text books some of the diagrams may have been pulled from. there is a folkloric feel about the information being disceminimated, a sense of storytelling and old lore. 

malia schultheis, concept vs. truth, mixed media on paper, 21"x27" (framed)

malia's recurring motifs of origami, scientific diagrams, and disembodied text remind me in an oddly pleasant way of my favorite UK artist suzy q and the owls. their approach is wildly different, and yet they achieve similar visual dialects. malia's work is much softer compared to suzy's geometric graphic design inspired aesthetic, and yet mirrored themes run like a seem between their two bodies of work. its fascinating to think about complex ideas and styles such as theirs developing simultaneously on opposite sides of the earth. ( isn't that what happened with the telephone?) i asked malia if she knew suzy's work, but she'd never seen it. simply a case of serendipity. perhaps there is some kind of greater artistic atmosphere surrounding the planet that only the most creative have large enough dreams to tap into? 

malia's work is infused with elements of biology, storytelling, and spirituality. her pieces are extraordinarily personal, and at times the viewer feels voyeuristic in peeking into the details of malia's life laid bare. we can trace the blueprint of the home she lives in with her son kai, read words of heartbreak traced down the arch of a figure's back, and in these acts we share in the artist's experiences. i admire the spirit of openness and honesty that malia embraces in her art. that level of personal revelation in art is what makes work skip past good to great.

malia schultheis, child's pose, mixed media diptych on paper, 34"x29"ma

 we had malia's grand opening this last first friday february 6th. we had a fantastic turnout, and again the response to the work was very positive. malia's art inspired discussion and contemplation in just the way that i had hoped. for me, that is one of the greatest powers of art, is its ability to inspire dialogue. and with malia's work, there is plenty to talk about. overall i think that the show was very strong, and considering her lack of gallery experience, i think the show borders on virtuosity. 

malia schultheis, mother culture, oil on canvas, 24"x24"


BREANNE! said...

beautiful work... i really enjoy your write ups chloe & the backstory you tell.

the work itself is already really telling, private & personal, it drew me in without spelling it all out, felt loaded with layers yet light, and without the often off putting pretentious attempt at deep meaning, i saw those dangling strings attaching it to real life.

i'm glad it got to be seen, i'm glad to have seen it even over a screen.
its so inspiring to know that there are people out there living and working 'normal' jobs and still making time for this work without the underlying reason of it being seen, but for real live love...

thanks for sharing, malia & fenario :)

Hungry Hyaena said...

"Child's Pose" is a stunning work!

I'm curious about Malia's other "career," if only because I'm nosey. ;)

tiger said...

I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.