Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Lisa Qualls

Lisa Qualls, Absence, book pages, acrylic, colored pencil, oil, wood, 2011

My art review repost from back in January 2012.

Lisa Qualls exhibition "Absence"shows a personal aspect from the haunting legacy of the AfricanDiasporas. In Qualls show at the Koelsch Gallery, she is left to imagine theimage of her slave owned great-great-great grandmother Lily. Quall depicts her at a mature age and at the age of 12 years old.

Qualls imagines her great-great-great grandmother at the age of 12 years much like a scientist might approach a genetic paring. She pictures multiple ethnic mixes in order get possible outcomes. Each possible girl in her own individual frame is wearing the same dress, but each has different facial and hair features. I find the softly drawn realism of her graphite has enhanced the inspired quality of the works. Because of the high level of drawings craft, I easily forget the craft and live in Qualls imaginative space.

Qualls allows her thoughts to run wild in the collaged paintings. Where her imaged daughter was in three drawings, Qualls had a great deal more of Lily, in fact 97 more. What I like most about these works is how dignified and regal she appeared. Qualls treats these paintings of her great-great-great grandmother, like Rembrandt would have painted one of his wealthy dignitaries. I also thought the use of pages from books drove home the tragic fact that Lily would not have been allowed to read and that few if any documents remain of her life.

Qualls is no stranger to using words in her work to drive a point. In 2008, Qualls used text on textual to tell the diasporas story of Canary Island boat people. She also has the work “Four Lilys” on a billboard/outdoor exhibition space at 4200 block of Bellaire Blvd in Houston, TX. The image is surrounded my ad clutter from other billboards, but Qualls manages to overcome the visual challenges surrounding her work through calming blues and whites she uses. These four possible images of the same woman almost rise into the sky like an old time spiritual.

Lisa Qualls’ “Absence”at Koelsch Gallery 703 Yale Street, runs through January 14th. Both the exhibit and book were funded by the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance. She is also making the first volume of “Absence” available for purchase at the gallery. The outdoor exhibition runs co-current with the gallery show.

For more images from the show visit

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