LOS ANGELES – In sacred geometry, the “vesica piscis symbol” describes the almond shape nestled between two identical overlapping circles. The symbol, one of the oldest in the world, recurs in all cultures and faiths, and appears frequently in religious paintings, architecture and nature. It is often associated with divine femininity, birth, spiritual crossroads, sexuality, and unity. In Christianity, the fish-like shape represents Jesus of Nazareth. For the ancient Greeks and Romans, the circles corresponded to their mythological goddesses, Aphrodite and Venus. In more esoteric readings, the almond shape symbolizes a portal to the universe and / or a higher power. Whatever the context, what is fascinating about vesica piscis is that it involves a reunion of two or more energies which results in the creation of a third source, a door that leads to another realm. and, by extension, to another way of being.
Los Angeles-based painter June Edmonds is inspired by the multiple inflections of vesica fish. Known for her large abstract paintings depicting vibrating energy wheels and neutral flags, Edmonds draws from her practice of meditation and American history – often highlighting the little-known chronicles of black Americans – to create works that slow down. the viewer, encouraging us to contemplate the myriad energies (and stories) flowing all around us.
June Edmonds: full spectrum, a solo exhibition curated by Karen Rapp at the Laband Art Gallery at Loyola Marymount University, spans 40 years of the artist’s career and offers an effective crash course for anyone new to Edmonds’ work. Beginning with her first figurative paintings (made when a student at San Diego State University in the 1980s), the exhibition traces Edmonds’ shift from figuration to abstraction, as her early portraits of friends and family turned into thick, thick shapes that obliquely signaled personal and historical accounts.
“Contrast” (1982), for example, features two women spending time in a bright living room. Small details stand out: one woman’s feathered curls, the other friend’s green heel, the creamy texture of the green foliage framed by the window. Even in these diaristic pieces, you can see flashes of his later work. “Contrast” balances the soft, vivid strokes used for faces and foliage with the crisp geometric patterns used for area rugs and curtains. Edmonds cites Romare Bearden, Varnette Honeywood, Jacob Lawrence and David Hockney as some of his inspirations during this time. She loved the way these artists embraced and absorbed elements of abstraction, which prompted Edmonds to be “more expressive with my figuration,” she explained to Hyperallergic on a phone call.
After participating in two artist residencies in 1997, Edmonds began to relax his practice, leaning on his improvisational impulses. “[I] took all the color off, took all the figuration out and just started from scratch, ”she said. Around this time, she created swirling charcoal works that heralded her desire to reset and explore a different visual language. Here, the absence of figures prompts the viewer to notice the quivering features or the swirling energy contained between darkness and light.
“With black and white [drawings] I really tried to get into a place where there was no figuration and the drawings were only about an idea, whatever it was at the time, or an emotion, ”Edmonds said. As she began to introduce color, her painting process slowed down and her focus shifted to “creating… energetic compositions with just lines, movements, shapes and values”. This thoughtful approach gave Edmonds the space to explore how color, movement, and repetition could double as gateways to spiritual introspection and personal connection. These experiences eventually developed into his series of circles, or Energy wheels.
“Gee’s Jungle” (2012), reminiscent of both Gee’s Bend quilts and Adinkra’s symbols, drains the web of people, replacing the figures with a brightly colored web of overlapping concentric circles. The circles are made up of thick cylindrical markings that alternate between shades of aquamarine, purple, eggplant and blush. Some circles roll into each other, creating moments of spontaneous bonding. Since she embarked on her Wheel of energy series, Edmonds was “drawn to where these circles overlap and what could be done in this particular area”. “Unina” (2017) focuses on this almond-shaped space of vesica fish. The impasto marks are organized around a vertical stripe in the middle of the canvas, resembling an auric field of muted primary colors.
Edmonds’ paintings invite us to take a step back from the physical realm, not to try to escape its thorny textures, but to realize the other narratives that exist alongside us – the intangible, the metaphysical, the ancestral.
June Edmonds: full spectrum continues at Loyola Marymount University’s Laband Art Gallery (Burns Fine Arts Center, 1 LMU Drive, Westchester, Los Angeles) until February 20, 22. The exhibition was curated by Karen Rapp.
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