Irene Carranza Has It

To see her work is to see the wonder and intensity of a people, Open Studio June 5

By Ara Najarian
Published on LatinoLA: June 5, 2004

Irene Carranza Has It

Perhaps no other Latina artist in Los Angeles is so visible and invisible at the same time. Perhaps no other is so commercially viable and not commercial. And perhaps no other artist is as important to the expression of being Latina in a multicultural world without treating the paintbrush as a political hammer.

On the contrary, whatever ?it? is, she nails it. Although the color and strokes convey a world somewhere between Diego Rivera and Edvard Munch, a world between Marc Chagall?s and Georgia O?Keefes?, that world is distinctly Carranza?s ? either eyes wide open or (and she?s often copied on this one) eyelids down.

But perhaps you are from this world and not much of an art aficionado ? unless there?s free wine and cheese ? so why should you care? What?s in it for you?

Put it this way: To see Carranza?s work is to realize why you care ? and what is in you.

Besides, it is a good bet you have felt her work already: In Old Pasadena on a huge banner on the same building as JJ?s Steakhouse. On the San Antonio Winery building. At the HOPE conference. On the Mitsubishi Motors/Mothers Against Drunk Drivers campaign materials. On street lamps in various Los Angeles districts. You?ve seen it on ER, Kingpin and even Celebrity Mole (now there?s a reason for your guilty pleasure).

To see her work up close is to see the wonder and intensity of a people on this planet for a reason. To many of us, that?s the only thing that separates us from the people in her paintings ? they know their purpose. Maybe you do too. Maybe you are a part of Carranza?s menagerie: Women captured on canvas, in the moment, filled with the vibrancy of color and the shadow of emotion. It?s reassuring and disturbing to find that.

Carranza has opened her new studio up in the inner city on South Arlington Avenue ? Saturday, June 5, marking the official opening with an open studio at 11 a.m. and reception at 4 p.m. ? and it is a chance to experience Carranza?s work in the place of creation. The center light from the ceiling gives the humble, early-century brick structure a warm, natural hue and the hardwood floors squeak with the echoes of those who came before.

In her studio, you?ll see the works commissioned for Carlos Santana or the mayor?s office. If they are not bought by the time you get there, there are also prints of works commissioned for Salma Hayek, Surgeon General Richard Carmona, and Josefina Lopez, or those owned by Cheech Marin, Matthew McConaughey, Jos? Jos?, Lisa Quiroz, Sheriff Lee Baca and Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard and Congressman Xavier Becerra. Perhaps Ms. Carranza will offer a glimpse of her new series of works that may be her best to date. A sneak preview of her yet-to-be-named pieces offer (typically) women and children with the intensity of great photography and magnetism of a strong memory.

Carranza?s words can belie the intensity of her work: ?My theory about what I do, or at least what it does for me, is that these painting communicate serenity and acceptance, inviting the viewer into the realm of tranquility. This is most often achieved by the use of oil pastels using vibrant, earthy tones, with organic, fluid shapes? says Carranza. ?My preference is to portray women and/or nature. I believe the painting is the result of some internal resolution of my own chaos and confusion.?

If that is true, the art world should never let her set things straight. That?s what the frame is for.

The open studio is at 11 a.m. ? 6 p.m., June 5, upstairs at 1853 South Arlington Avenue in Los Angeles. The 4 p.m. reception includes a performance by classical guitarist Gary Ibarra, whom Carranza has done album covers for, and a presentation by Lucille Roybal-Allard?s office. Refreshments that you come to expect and enjoy at these exhibits will be available as well as catering by The Taco Factory for the reception. Studio showings after June 5 are by appointment only. Admission is free. Irene Carranza?s website is www.irenecarranza.com.

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