What humans have taken for granted for all of our existence as a species – nature and the climate – have begun to act in disconcerting ways. What was once predictable and familiar is asserting itself in strange and, at times, disastrous ways. Rather than representing or imitating nature, I work with the uncanny situation we are in – a world that flows in and out of states of recognition.
The “Odalisque” paintings are my current body of work, and they address conscious and unconscious biases regarding traditional associations of nature with the feminine. The philosophers of the Enlightenment equated men with reason, whereas women and nature were consigned to the realm of the irrational. This idea lives on in the widely used expression “Mother Nature”, which feminizes the environment and gives credence, by way of tradition, to the attitude that both nature and women need to be conquered, domesticated and controlled. My idea is to step back and look at women differently, and to weigh the impact of deeply ingrained attitudes toward the female that have ramifications in the realm of ecology. For this, I chose to work with iconic paintings of women by masters such as Matisse and Ingres, from a period in their careers in which they explored a fascination with the exotic Middle East through paintings of “odalisques”, quasi-slave women kept secluded in the harems of upper class men. In these paintings I substituted trees and plants for drapery and furniture, and I used traditional marbling techniques to erase specificity through patterns. This work tries to show how feminist issues can potentially strengthen environmentalism, because a more egalitarian and just society plays naturally into the understanding that we are part of a vast living organism that seeks equilibrium.
Displacement due to environmental factors is due to increase, creating crises that threaten to de-stabilize societies. The benches in the “At the Border” installation are purposefully over-decorated with a wild combination of patterns and accoutrements relating to diverse cultures. Each one is a metaphor for the body of the migrant – an avatar of displacement, burdened by cultural signifiers like traditional decorative elements, colors and patterns, mourning the abandonment of possessions such as livestock, furniture and familiar objects. These charged objects “sit” obligingly within the limited area, like travelers at a border crossing. The black & yellow caution tape on the floor acts as a reminder of the illusion of free movement in the world.
“One of the most talented, dedicated, and imaginative artists it has been my pleasure to teach, Dinora creates work of great beauty and meaning. Working within the traditional genre of landscape painting, she creates vivid scenes of forested places half convincingly realist, half psychedelically hallucinatory. They speak about the enduring environmental and spiritual power of nature while also expressing concern for its beleaguered future. At the same time, the strange patterns and alien tropical elements in these images of North American landscapes refer to her own experience as an immigrant from Brazil to Boston. She has worked with themes similar to those of her paintings in photography and video as well, boldly experimenting with various mediums to realize her artistic vision.
While still at the beginning of her professional career, Ms. Justice has already created substantial bodies of work in painting, drawing, collage, photography, and video. She works from a studio at home in the Boston area, and is quickly becoming an integral part of the regional art scene. Her interests in patterning as a metaphor for both the textures of nature and the markings of a foreign presence, coupled with her ongoing experiments in collage, have led her to the use of marbled papers as components in her paintings.”
Joseph R. Wolin, New York curator and critic
“Dinora Felske Justice, a young artist from Brazil, uses the luminous materiality of oil paint to capture nature’s solace. Her works demonstrate her ability to meld classical technique and modern sensibility in paintings of mesmerizing richness.
Juxtaposing Renaissance precision and techniques with an abstract, modern treatment of broad areas of light and color, Justice unites classical atmospheric illusionism with patterned surfaces asserting modernist immediacy and objectness. This subtle pull creates a vitalizing tension and urgency that gives a powerful edge to the work’s dreamlike quality. The images convey transcendent beauty and anonymous familiarity, timelessness and transformation, narrative and silence. Her avowed respect and concern for nature is superbly served by her ability to both render and imagine its impenetrable, vulnerable beauty.” –
Susan Boulanger, Art Critic *Exerpt from ART NEW ENGLAND February 2004
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