Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Hibiscus" by Viza Arlington

Viza Arlington
19" x 25.5" (image)

This image first captivated my attention a few years ago when I discovered it on Etsy. The artist made an edition of 40 and has sold several over the years. It is easy to see why this image is so striking, but difficult to explain.

Last Thursday was the autumn equinox; the official start of fall, even though most people in this part of the world think of fall as beginning in September or after Labor Day. I chose to post and write about this image today in honor of the colors of autumn, which is a tad ironic considering that the hibiscus plant only grows in subtropical and tropical regions. Sort of reminds me of when I saw decorated evergreen trees and heard "White Christmas" over the airport radio in Thailand. But in this age of fast travel, imports, exports, and the Internet, why not have a tropical flower stand for a celebration of fall?

This portrait with no face, no background, is therefore anonymous and without context. With the delicately rendered ear and contours of her facial profile, the picture seems highly realistic. And yet the uniform planes of color: black, umber, orange, coral, the simplicity with which the flower is rendered, the tight cropping, and anonymity, make it seem quite abstract. This is a pleasing arrangement of colors, shapes, textures, and lines, and at the same time she is a person being watched, examined (by us) while unaware. The colors radiate, and yet the distance created by our voyeurism and her gaze turned away from us, cools. This, too, reminds me a fall.

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