“Revealing Interiors”—an exhibition on view at the Princeton University Art Museum (Early European galleries) in Princeton, New Jersey—opened on May 5 and closes on October 28 2018. Artist Elizabeth Colomba (whose parents hail from Martinique) provides a contemporary perspective while bringing to mind dimensions of race and gender.
Description of “Revealing Interiors” (Princeton University Art Museum): Artists have long conceived of domestic interior spaces as settings for a wide range of figurative subjects, which often incorporate human introspection or interiority. This selection of prints and drawings, spanning the early sixteenth century to the present, demonstrates how inhabited interiors—whether observed or imaginary, real or theatrical—reveal themes of spirituality, artistic creativity, or domesticity through details such as furniture and objects on the wall.
Rounding out the selection is a group of crowded interiors dominated by single figures: the prints by Works Progress Administration artists Minetta Good and Dox Thrash evoke issues of gender and racial identity, respectively—which also are addressed by Elizabeth Colomba’s recent watercolor.
Description of “Clytie” (Gallery Label): As in many of Colomba’s works, this watercolor expresses her intent to create an alternate history of black identity, expression, and community through the appropriation and disruption of traditional Western representations of biblical or mythological female characters. According to the Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the sea-nymph Clytie was spurned by the sun god, Helios (later called Apollo), and slowly wasted away while gazing at his chariot traversing the sky; she was then transformed into a flower that always turns its face toward the sun. Although the flower in Ovid’s tale is thought to be a marigold or a heliotrope, by the seventeenth century it was usually depicted as a sunflower, native to the Americas. Here Colomba envisioned the traumatized Clytie as a woman of color, clothed not in classical drapery but in a mid-nineteenth-century ball gown. Squeezed into the corner of a lavishly decorated interior, she shrinks away from the sunflowers displayed in a Neoclassical vase on the mantel and the Baroque painting of Apollo above.
Elizabeth Colomba is born in France and raised in Épinay-sur-Seine, from parents of Martinican descent. She lives and works in New York City. Elizabeth received a degree in applied art from the Estienne School of Art, Paris and also studied at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris.
[Shown above: Elizabeth Colomba’s “Clytie” (2008).]