I wrote off Lynda Frese’s book of paintings, Pacha Mama: Earth Realm, as hippie bullshit the second I scanned the press release and saw mentions of healers, prayers, and phrases like “living harmoniously with the earth.” Frese was trying to schedule an artist’s talk at the Antenna Gallery on Friday, October 7, at 6 p.m. and my colleagues had asked if I’d help promote the event on Room 220. But upon visiting the artist’s website and looking at Frese’s collage-paintings, I was stunned, and immediately agreed.
The art in Pacha Mama is lush, complex, and sinister, with traces of Goya and the Brothers Grimm. Frese’s introduction to the book talks nothing of yogis or gurus, but focuses on cave paintings, petroglyphs, pagan temples, frescoes in a Benedictine monastery, and megaliths—huge stone structures erected by primitive people as acts of worship to gods they feared and believed would one day destroy the world. Frese’s art, like her introduction, is much darker that your typical “earth mother” fare—it reminds one of the jungles in Werner Herzog’s films, full of fornication and decay, and, indeed, Frese begins her essay with a Herzog quote: “It is as if the modern human soul had awakened here.”
In Frese’s paintings, angels with bat wings swoop through Dante’s inferno, a skull rises in an orange sky above the sea, ruins of houses of worship sit among ruins of nature, and human organs wash up on the beach like dead jellyfish. The themes of earth and harmony are still apparent, but are presented more as warnings than urgings, and it’s clear that, to Frese, at the core of natural harmony beats the earth’s dark heart.
The book’s afterword includes two essays by healers/yogis that I couldn’t get through (they’re more like what I was expecting from the press release) and the book is interspersed with sonnets by former Louisiana poet laureate Darrell Bourque, which are underwhelming, to say the least. For these reasons, the book, as a whole, falters quite a bit, but Frese’s art and introduction alone are worth the price of the book ($25). Come talk with her and pick up a copy this Friday at 6 p.m.