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Date Minted: June 9, 2020

Artist Description: In those days I had the opportunity to have deep, powerful and loving dialogues with women, that's why this series is dedicated to the Woman. #cicatriciebaci is a narrative and interactive project that tells stories of human scars; they are the past wounds, embroidered into your life, experiences that have shaped and empowered you. In sharing your scars and stories with the narrator, we embark on a visual journey of self-discovery and create a new story we can share with the world. The stories unfold together while evoking emotions very personal to each storyteller.

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Barbara Tosti loves bodies. They are everywhere in her works. For the first many dozens of her Superrare pieces, bodies are not only present, but the centerpieces. Faces and full-human forms. Limbs emerge from the edges of images to cover bodies elsewhere, sometimes stacked on top of each other, sometimes discolored or recolored, but always present and always easily-identifiable. She is clearly an artist interested in the body as a canvas itself, or rather, the body as able to express so much on its own, with the artist only needing to capture it in various forms. Further along her oeuvre, that complete focus on bodies lifts a bit, and there are other explorations of subject matter, some cheeky, and others with a new emphasis on color over specific form. It’s in this latter sequence that Paola FLOWER CONVERSATION (Woman Series) emerges, this being a unique piece even in an oeuvre of nearly 100 pieces. Paola FLOWER CONVERSATION (Woman Series) is interested in bodies but curiously divergent from those how those bodies have heretofore been used to demonstrate a certain expression or emotion or position. These bodies are almost doll-like. They have been sapped of their overtly human features and painted over in texture instead. The result is a work that is absolutely breathtaking aesthetically, a tour-de-force of color and composition, but which sees the artist cataloging the human experience from an internal-first perspective as opposed to her norm, where we pursue humanity from the outside-in. 

But really, let’s take a moment just to appreciate the composition, because it’s breathtaking. I think, for me, it’s the contrasting colors that captures my attention, and not just the contrast, but the luscious expression of each hue. It’s a background of beautiful natural imagery, the emerald green of deep forest and the look-at-me reddish-pink of the flowers and buds on the bush that makes up the image’s background. It’s so strangely composed, however, I’d be tempted to think this was generative art if the artist wasn’t so clear in her description that this is photography. Clearly, however, there are post-production photography techniques at play here, especially as we move further into examining the image’s main object, the two floral-textured figures kneeling in the piece’s abdomen. Here, it becomes obvious that the photograph has been doctored in some way, either layered or recolored after the fact, but what an astounding effect that meddling has. The two figures indeed kneel in the center of the piece, but across from each other, almost like mirror images. Both have been stripped completely of their human features. You will find neither faces nor hair nor any identification information more specific than denoting that these are human forms. Kneeling in either pain or prayer, they both have large ruptures running along their bodies, as if cracking in two. But back to their textures. The first figure (first because it is physically above the other) has been colored over in hues of white and purple and blue and green, with all the colors having been given an artificial brilliance, a near-neon pigmentation that immediately captures attention and immediately provides contrast to the darker, more classically-natural color in the background. The lower figure is the opposite, bedecked in a fiery dress of red and yellow and orange, interwoven with sporadic pieces of the same neon-turquoise which suffocates the other figure’s lower half. Down on the lower half of the piece, the same hyper-vivid coloration continues, as if it has supersaturated the rest of the piece and has dripped down into a puddle, pooling down below.

Which calls to mind interesting connotations, religious things like baptisms and holy water to match the appearance of prayer. Although the ambiguous nature of the composition helps to communicate the ambiguous nature of the emotions captured. Because although this might be a religious piece showing figures in devotion, I’m also tempted to characterize it as a depiction of figures in immense pain. The schism down the bodies, the genuflection, a touching of the heart which might just as easily be the grasping of abdomens. Even by integrating this religiosity into our reading, we can find crucial similarity between the idea of a person in pain, and one on their knees praying for release. 

These figures (which, if the sequence of Tosti’s titling holds here, depicts a person named Paola) are not outwardly betraying any specific emotion. They have, as mentioned, been sapped of their identifying characteristics, and are captured here simply as form. And yet we consume them with our experiences, with our own connotations, and as we read pain in the piece, we are imparting pain atop it. As we imagine prayer in the piece, the people begin praying! Perhaps that’s a quality of all abstract art, but here, when applied to the human form, that understanding appears more pointed. Because it’s not just meaning we can impart upon a piece, but emotions and experiences unto people. Without the guidance of facial expression, we should be left with only ambiguity, and yet there is no mistaking the great outpouring of emotion captured in these figures, communicated by the artist’s unique composition and coloration.

 I feel like I could write another whole essay on just the color and what it represents, or another on the juxtaposition between the natural and the artificial. All of which is to say that Tosti has created a rich text for us to explore. It’s the rare work that only gains luster as it is observed, that only gains further layers of meaning the deeper one peers into it. 

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