“Las Meninas,” Erin Currier’s new body of work that’s featured in a solo show opening at Blue Rain Gallery on September 14, pays homage to classical and modernist masterpieces while addressing contemporary issues such as the rights of women, immigrants and blue collar workers.
Ordinary and famous women, including United Farm Workers’ co-founder Dolores Huerta, are the focal point of Currier’s paintings. Huerta replaces the male gardener in Currier’s interpretation of Vincent Van Gogh’s painting “The Gardener.”
“Directly translated, the title of my show, Las Meninas, means ladies in waiting,” explains Currier, who lives and paints in Santa Fe.
“I’m alluding to the fact that women all around the world have felt they have been in waiting for a long time. Waiting for the appropriate moment to step into the foreground as fully engaged and active participants.”
“Denisa the Barista Napolitana (after Manet)” tips its hat to Édouard Manet’s painting “A Bar at the Folies-Bergere.”
“Manet’s 1881 painting prophesied a scenario that is all too familiar today; one in which economic disparity continues to create an ever-growing service industry of the many that caters to the needs, whims and desires of the few,” says Currier. “In the painting, the worker, Suzon, has a place in the social hierarchy that’s as solid as the marble countertop on which she leans.
“The subject of my painting, Denisa, is modeled after a young woman I met in Naples, Italy who owns a little café bar kiosk with her mother. Like Manet, my painting critiques power structures that oppress and exclude. However, I have expressed this through an uplifted subject-a working class woman who is strong, empowered, and very much owns the place and calls the shots.”
Eugene Delacroix’s revolutionary painting “Liberty Leading the People” was the inspiration for the signature painting of Currier’s series titled “American Women (dismantling the border) III (after Delacroix),” which depicts the U.S./Mexico wall being dismantled by Indigenous women on both sides of the border.
“In my rendition, as in the era in which we find ourselves, I have portrayed Delacroix’s vanguard of feminine strength and grace in action in the form of an Indigenous woman,” Currier adds.
Currier says the women in her paintings are like many women in similar life situations. “Every portrait I create is representative of hundreds of other people,” she adds.