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Exhibition Essay
April 1, 2022

Cuban Queens at the InLiquid Gallery

About the Author
Amy Cook

See the exhibition here


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Cuban Queens, an exhibition by Liz Goldberg, explores the archetype of the diva–the empowering, uninhibited woman and the ideas she represents–through vibrant colors, gestural mark-making, and lavishly dressed figures. The works, on view at the InLiquid Gallery from March 10th to April 16th 2022, manifest the energy and vibrancy of the Cuban women that first inspired Goldberg, transforming them into physical and tangible art pieces. Bright red lipstick, smoking cigars, pouty expressions, and exaggerated poses are recurring motifs that unify the body of work and play into the concept and associations behind divaism.

Goldberg uses colors in a striking, yet purposeful way; she taps into the psychology of color and utilizes that to convey the complex personalities of the women within each piece. The vibrant red that engulfs the posed figure in Cuban Queens – Rose Alexander, gives off flamboyant energy. The intensity of the red aligns with the intensity of the mark making, rendering the portrait visually-striking.The figure is the quintessential diva; she reclines while smoking a cigar, gazing past the viewer, and pouting her lips. She is flashy in every sense, yet her expression adds a layer of complexity to her character that would otherwise be overlooked by her attire.

Cuban Queens 3 uses red in a similar fashion; the figures in the space are engulfed by a sea of rich, vibrant red. All elaborately dressed, the women within this space sport colorful garments, makeup, accessories, and updos. With a hand on their hip, and the other bent upward at the elbow and holding a cigar, these women exude a pompous, powerful, and sassy front. Their expressions seem somewhat unphased, gazing out into space and not focused on anyone in particular. The neutral expressions juxtapose the intensity of the outfits they wear in an interesting way, and explores ideas of the internal versus the external.

Because the archetype of the diva is such a complex one, Goldberg sticks to drawing and painting the same groups of figures, in an attempt to find and explore the threads that tie. The short film Cuban Queens, created in collaboration between Goldberg, filmmaker Warren Bass, and animator Lowell Boston, brings this repetition to light. Just as flashy and punchy as her paintings, the short film is a visual sensation. In the film, Goldberg’s live street drawings come to life, flashing and morphing into one another in a rhythmic pattern. Recurring elements become more apparent under the rapid transition and overlap of portrait to portrait; the cigars, the poses, the headwear, the gazes, and the fashion shine through as signifiers of the diva lifestyle.

Fashion plays a major role in the diva archetype, and Goldberg is no stranger to this. Wearable scarves inspired by Cuban Queens and made by fashion designer Jaeyoon Jeong, elevate the artwork and transform the pieces in their own unique way. Goldberg notes that “the scarves add a new dimension to the work as they shift with the light and movement of the individual wearing the garment”, similar to the shifts and changes within her film. Wearable scarves and makeup bags are on display and available for purchase at the show.Come see Cuban Queens, on view in the InLiquid Gallery located at 1400 N American St #314, Philadelphia, PA until April 16th, 2022. The gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday from noon to 6.

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