The newest exhibition by Camille Rose Garcia titled The Polyphonic Fortress, is both a natural progression and a nuanced departure from her earlier figurative and narrative works. Since the early years of her solo career with KP Projects (Merry Karnowsky) in 1999, decades of Garcia’s prolific, boldly distinct, and metamorphic paintings have beckoned to the contemporary figurative and narrative aesthetic that came to define the Lowbrow / Pop Surreal movement.
Working from her studio in the Northern California coastal forest, where she has now lived longer than her urban upbringing in native Los Angeles, it seems inevitable that “Landscape” would influence the artist’s work and form a symbolic language of its own.Ruminating on the loss of a forest the size of Philadelphia from a 2023 wildfire in Garcia’s immediate area, a nebulous loss that magnifies the collective wildfires eating up the California landscape, the 10 paintings on panel and 17 watercolor works on paper are a profound study in personal and collective loss, and a hope for transcendence.
Mysterious caves, giant shells, and drifting, melting icebergs form poetic spaces of refuge while appearing jarringly calm and free from any human presence. Burnt driftwood sticks build temporary shelter on the beach, forming structures both intentionally placed and randomly scattered by the lunar pull of the tides. Planets also show up as a space of vertical meditation and a reminder of the vastness of the universe. The Earth itself is a fortress adrift in a vast and still darkness, yet a resilient bastion and impregnable force. Tiny insects have worlds within their wings; colors in nature are presented like a jewel on the back of a scarab or on the inside nacre of a seashell. The iridescent skin of a butterfly cocoon radiates as it transforms. In the smaller, more delicate watercolor pieces, some figures do appear, but more as ghosts or spirits. Arctic queens command planets, making songs to carefully arrange the world to put things in their right place. These figures are fragile, barely there, built of smoke and vibrations. Skewed towards meditative expressionism, these new paintings bring us to the threshold of transcendence through brilliant color, hue, frequency, line, and tone.
The dizzying beauty of light reflecting on ocean water throughout the series becomes a universal reflecting pool. Painted with a vibrant polyphonic palette of bright, deep, contrasting color modulations and velvety surfaces, these worlds are spiritually and aesthetically gracious enough to receive our diverging emotions – feelings grief, anger, disillusionment – and refocuses them like a glassy, glowing, prism.
There is an unmistakable escapism at work here, perhaps the one unifying theme throughout Garcia’s work. The landscapes become psychedelic escape portals where the paintings themselves transform into magical objects capable of psychic transport. In this way they differ from the earlier work that narrated the means for escape. These paintings no longer narrate escape, as much as they embody it.
The Polyphonic Fortress is a shimmering, ethereal love letter to the landscapes of California, from the smallest of her inhabitants and the world within them, to the greater Universes beyond. It is a record of the artist’s dreams, a spell to cure time, and a magic fort of blankets to keep the crystalline perfection of nature protected and unchanged.