Irene Pressner in the OC Register
Pressner transfers tattoo concept to 'paint' on boards
Exhibiting at Salt Fine Art Gallery is the work of Venezuelan artist Irene Pressner.
Pressner, of Jewish European ancestry, boldly decided to use art to lessen the humiliating experiences her family endured during World War II in Europe. They, with millions of other people, were tattooed with a number, as each was branded like animals. Her moving encaustic paintings not only tell of that demeaning period in history, but they are her attempt, in a most beautiful format, to ridicule its predators.
Rather than injecting tattoos into human skin, Pressner transfers the concepts to "paint" on board with an encaustic substance. Her vision was to turn tattooing into a classic fine art form, to raise it from being common to being regal. First, she became an expert of the tattooing arts by studying at a street parlor in her native Caracas. At the same time, being an artist, she looked for techniques and symbolism that would allow her to snub her nose at past history in the most superb way possible. The technical answer was encaustics and the symbolism would be iconic comic characters. She honed her skills with encaustics, a very arduous art form where imagery is created with hot beeswax. Encaustics are one of the earliest materials in art history, going back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. The Greeks even coated their ships with encaustics. Honing her skills in tattooing and skills in encaustics, using beeswax, pigment, oil paint, and tattooing inks, Pressner creates striking iconography that reference politics and history.
Pressner's iconic images include Dumbo, Felix the Cat, Ferdinand the Bull, and Betty Boop. They are meticulously rendered into symmetrical and asymmetrical patterns, embellished with secondary symbols. These intimate paintings form a close relationship of imagery, where tongue-in-cheek references and humor, reside in an intricate and flamboyant Rococo style, a highly respected mode in art history that Pressner now calls "Rococomics."
In 2006, Pressner won the Museum of Latin American Art's first prize award and her art is now part of the Long Beach museum's permanent collection. In the same year, she also won major prizes in her native Venezuela. Pressner's art transforms the demeaning tattooing experience of 60 years ago to one of great beauty. Her art raises perceptions and turns the tables on a terrible period in history.
Attend the First Thursday Art Walk on Aug. 5 at Salt Fine Art Gallery, 1492 South Coast Highway, Unit 3. Information: 917-957-3387 or www.saltfineart.com.
Also at First Thursday Art Walk, the plaza where Salt Fine Art Gallery is located will hold a fiesta with food, music and lots of art. Karin Fauman of Guatemala will display original hand-embroidered textiles from Guatemala. Visit her website www.deseotextiles.com.