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all words and photos: Rachel Eisley

Conner Contemporary was flooded with art enthusiasts Saturday evening who came in droves to see the dual solo openings of Patricia Piccinni and Victoria F. Gaitán.

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The exhibit is supported by the Embassy of Australia as both artists hail from Australia. Although working in different mediums, Piccinni in sculpture and drawing and Gaitán in color photography, the similarity between the artists is not limited to their nationality.  Both artists grapple with the balance between beauty and the grotesque, the familiar and the strange, and the provocative juxtaposed with the calm.

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Piccinni’s work consists of several sculptures made of varying materials including silicone, fiberglass, human and animal hair, taxidermied peacocks, polyester, nylon, wool, plastic and bronze and several drawings. 

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Her sculptures are humanoid and bestial hybrids which have a surprisingly realistic quality to them because of their fine craftsmanship and painstaking attention to detail, despite their unnerving surrealism.

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They are both startling and fascinating to behold and their installation allows visitors to get up close and personal in order to view every engrossing hair, wrinkle and mutated body part. A must see in person.

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Victoria F. Gaitán’s photographs are expansively bold color prints featuring hyper realistic portraits of women in lavish costume with props ranging from a stuffed coyote to lollipops in various poses referencing the history of western portraiture in painting and photography.

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The women are all beautiful in their own specific way, yet the placement of props and costumes call into question their role in the photograph – for example, with several objects such as red roses and red lollipops covering the subjects’ mouths as if to silence them or replace their ability to speak with a feminized object, the figures’ legitimacy as individuals outside of their beauty and womanhood are called into question through the viewers gaze.

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Gaitán herself was a work of art Saturday evening, standing tall above most every gallery patron in red glittery Wizard of Oz platform heels, her magnificent platinum blond hair cascading downwards, dramatically framed against her black dress outfitted with black feathers.

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Patricia Piccinni and Victoria F. Gaitán’s solo exhibitions at Connor Contemporary Art allow the viewer to vacillate between reality and fantasy while ruminating upon many of the controversial societal intricacies facing our modern age, leaving the viewer to decode the answers for herself.

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