A woman’s face tilts slightly upward for a gentle kiss. Her lips and the tip of her nose touch the bridge of a giraffe’s nose. The long-legged creature bears a head that is heart-shaped, its eyes closed with thick eyelashes that mirror those of the woman. It is a moment of pure relation against a backdrop of elemental gold. Taos artist Kimberly Webber’s latest paintings in her “Invocation” series reflect the affection and respect possible between humans and other animals, invoking a sense of reverence.
“Invocation” will debut at an opening reception Friday (Dec. 29) from 5-7 p.m. at Untitled Fine Art, 133 Kit Carson Road, Taos. The reception will include refreshments and live East Indian music by Mark Choplin and Terra Tiffany. In addition, Omnia Amin will give a special address.
Amin was born in Cairo, Egypt, received her doctorate in contemporary English literature and feminist theory from the University of London and is an author, translator and professor. She met Webber in Dubai in 2007 and wrote the introduction to “Touching Earth,” a coffee-table book about the paintings of Kimberly Webber.
Webber calls Amin, “a dear friend of mine and an incredible person. Through the course of us meeting and forming a friendship, she connected to my work and what I’m doing.”
In her introduction, Amin writes, “Webber’s work is included in a genre of artists who call themselves ‘illuminists’ as they work with light and color to illumine the inside, the inner, to ignite the flame of a new awareness through art.”
The “Invocation” series is a continuation of the work Webber began in last year’s “Initiation.” In both, wild animals are brought to the forefront of Webber’s paintings. “Invocation” includes black jaguar, tiger, owl, lynx and buffalo. In her largest painting to date, Webber paints a life-size image of a newborn humpback whale.
Webber describes how a newborn humpback’s skin is covered in a sheen. She has incorporated that luminous covering into her painting. The 15-foot piece transports the viewer into the lapis-colored ocean world that covers most of the earth’s surface. “The animals in virtually all cultures around the planet through history have had significance to humanity as being messengers or medicine. They bring medicine and answers and wisdom and insight for humanity,” Webber said.
Alongside the animals are human figures that carry a mythic presence. Their luminous skin is transparent to their surroundings suggestive of a blending of consciousness and awareness. “The archetypes have also served humanity since time immemorial with messages for awakening and activation in both personal and collective awareness,” reads Webber’s artist statement on her new work, published on her website kimberlywebber.com.
The scale of paintings in “Invocation” is large – many of the animals are represented in life-size proportions. Webber also chose to illuminate the forms of wild animals who are in danger of extinction through habitat loss, poaching and other human-caused encroachments. As part of Webber’s “art-ivism” project that began with “Initiation” and continues with “Invocation,” a portion of the profits from the sale of each original painting is earmarked for a specific conservation organization working to protect and preserve the animals depicted in Webber’s paintings.
For example, the sale of the above-described painting of a giraffe will benefit the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), giraffeconservation.org. According to the Foundation’s website, it is the only non-governmental organization in the world “that concentrates solely on the conservation and management of giraffe in the wild throughout Africa.” In addition, 100 percent of the profit generated by the newborn humpback whale painting will go to an organization whose work benefits the world’s ocean life.
In a press release, Webber states, “The paintings are a prayer for all life on this planet and a call to action. [‘Invocation’] is an appeal to humanity to awaken to our role as stewards and guardians of this rare gift of diversity and life. The animals and the ecosystem are inextricably linked to humanity’s own survival.”
Webber draws from both classical Western and Eastern painting traditions. She uses rice paper as her painting surface. Her materials include powdered lapis, mica, gold, iron oxide, vine charcoal, hand-made calligraphy ink, beeswax, pure pitch and resins. Webber’s process is time-intensive and contemplative. When finished, an individual piece has 70-100 layers of inks and pigments for a quality of substance, depth and light-reactivity.
Merging “high-brow” and “low-brow” techniques, Webber said she has recently incorporated pop/street art strategies into her work. For example, one of her latest pieces was spray-painted with gold paint. Another was flamed with a glass bottle filled with paint thinner, replacing the candle smoke technique used by Renaissance artists. “Michelangelo would use candle smoke on his Sistine Chapel paintings to make them look marbled and aged, so I’m using the flame from a Molotov cocktail to introduce marbling,” Webber explained.
The exhibit is on view through Feb. 2. For more information, visit kimberlywebber.com.