“Untitled ( Loto del Cielo con Perrito),” graphite and watercolor on paper

Claudia Alvarez has been busy in the pandemic cultivating a new body of watercolor paintings filled with images of children and of flowers inspired by the backyard garden of her youth, the results of which can be seen—fittingly—at the Garden of the Zodiac Gallery on June 3.

The New York-based artist, a perennial favorite in Omaha since her 2005 Bemis Center residency, has long harvested memory, innocence and identity as a platform for investigating ethics and power struggles.

Here, botanical imagery is largely drawn from sources specific to Alvarez’s roots in Mexico and central California. In keeping with the issues that drive her work, the sentimentality attached to images of nature and youth in bloom is tempered with a fragility and an anxious tone in her rendering. Certainly the pandemic and social unrest of the last year have only served to intensify the artist’s aim to illuminate vulnerability and displacement. 

“Chachi Chachito,” 2020, graphite and watercolor on paper

As witness to her interest in displacement and assimilation are two works forming the show’s centerpiece. Alvarez was inspired by the famous medieval “Unicorn in Captivity” tapestry housed at the Cloisters in New York, reimagining the identity of one unicorn in black and surrounded by African botanicals, and replacing the other magical animal with a double portrait constructed from memory of a lost brother and nephew. Each serves thoughtfully to connect an idealized history with a knowing perspective.

Claudia Alvarez opens on Thursday, June 3, 2021 and runs through Sunday, August 8 in the Garden of the Zodiac Gallery, 1042 Howard Street. There will be no opening reception. The gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from noon to 8:00pm and on Sundays from noon to 6:00pm. For further information, please contact 402.341.1877, email gardenofthezodiac@gmail.com, or visit the Garden of the Zodiac page on Facebook.

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