Artist of the Week: Beatriz Aguirre, Uncanny Doubles

Ever wonder what to wear to a nightclub in outer space? Beatriz Aguirre’s eye-catching, far out oil painting Exotic Dancers raises and answers this question simultaneously. This extraterrestrial bacchanal is a geode of saturated colors and ogling eyes. Humanoids and aliens sip on liquid solutions from beakers and flasks that appears to have been abducted from the chem lab at New Trier High School. And, to those still wondering about the dress code, it appears that blue V-necks, flared jeans, or absolutely nothing is acceptable.

Whether Exotic Dancers triggers a memory of the nightclub scene from the Star Wars saga or your days conducting acid-base titrations in AP Chemistry, Beatriz establishes a strange level of familiarity – which is incredibly impressive for a painting whose central figure is wearing a bra that can blink.

The painting, as with all the paintings by Beatriz, draws its power from both the familiar and unfamiliar. She ekes out a connection with the viewer amid incredibly surreal terrains. Her portfolio of off-beat and bewildering paintings repeatedly plays with the viewer’s expectations with uncanny doubling, cultural references, and grotesque distortions to the human body.

If chemistry is Exotic Dancers’ prerequisite, then geometry is Love Triangle’s. Despite the title, the painting goes far beyond the humble triangle. This glimpse into a circus performer’s boudoir becomes an intricate tangle of angles, surfaces, and reflections underscored with a darkly humorous and emotional mini-drama.

The complexity relies on a single object: a mirror. The mirror is the central axis. It not only reflects the composition, but reveals its alternate meaning. Without it, this would just be a painting of a woman undressing at her vanity, instead of what it really is: a painting of a bearded woman undressing at her vanity. The mirror also reveals that both a blue-skinned clown and a shirtless man vie for this woman’s affection.

A mirror is the perfect object for a Beatriz Aguirre painting; It enacts one of the main impulses of her compositions: doubling. A line of symmetry sets up a pattern and expectation within the canvas. An expectation that Beatriz can defy. Plague Hall – a painting based on scene from The Shining that follows doomed parallel lines that send the eyes down a hallway of horrors beset with plague doctors, creepy children, and a rat infestation – has a line of symmetry right through the middle. The central image is a set of twins, or, a mirror’s genetic equivalent.

Beatriz satirizes the viewer’s experience compositional symmetry, cultural references, or the viewer’s own physicality, Beatriz toys with her viewer’s expectations with fantastic twists.