Silvia Poloto By Terri Cohn June 2008
One of Silvia Poloto’s great artistic strengths is her ability to create liaisons between her pleasure in paint and the desire to express deeply meaningful, personal content. The mixed media paintings in her new series Absence/Presence are abstract expressions of emotional content rather than literal descriptions, associational, sensitively composed, and suggestive of memory. They invite us in to wander, consider, and determine meaning for ourselves.
Poloto tends to use a lexicon of symbolic imagery that we naturally want to piece together to determine content. While she engages the viewer through her skillful play with color, shape, and composition, the works in this series are also populated with such consistent elements as bugs, thorn studded branches, red balls, and twisting lines, seemingly emblematic of her husband’s illness.
Both Essence and Wonder are comprised of individual areas that contain these expressions of her visual vocabulary, almost like a glossary of conditions and emotions. Some of the paintings—Whisper, Essence–have screened-back areas that suggest memory and landscape. The most specific is Embrace, populated by elements like pills, staples, and hair, implying the artist’s acceptance of her current life circumstances. By contrast, Solace is quieter, with its suggestion of a diamond-floored hallway that opens in to a space of golden light.
Primarily structured as vertical compositions, some of these works—Ebb, Whisper, Void–are structurally suggestive of beds. Poloto has created this objectness, in part, by arranging her compositions so that many elements rest in foreground space. Her evocation of beds is replete with allusions to rest, comfort, and warmth, as well as to sleep and dreaming, sex and pain. The bed as an archetype–described in Adrienne Rich’s poem Rauschenberg’s Bed–is also mute, unable to articulate what it has witnessed, although by its existence bears evidence of those events.
In a related way, Poloto’s associational canvases merge art’s continual conundrums: abstraction and representation, mood and narrative, materiality and subjectivity, order and chaos: the aesthetic awareness of our tenuous existence and shared ordinariness.
Terri Cohn is a writer, curator, and art historian, and contributing editor to Artweek magazine.. She is a faculty member and Graduate Faculty Advisor at the San Francisco Art Institute, and serves as a trustee for the Djerassi Resident Artist Program.