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Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides

Elizabeth Colomba

Elizabeth Colomba

Born and raised in France, on the outskirts of Paris, amid the rich inspiring Caribbean heritage of her family, Elizabeth Colomba's life as an artist began in early childhood: “ I was six years old when I initially told my mother, I will be a painter… She patted me on the head, and insinuated I either have to win the lottery or be Picasso… As I was contemplating my two choices, 2 years went by… The school I was in, wanted to do something special for father’ s day, and decided that we would be copying a master work of art of our choice, as a gift for this significant occasion. My Van Gogh counterfeit made my parents ecstatic, and assured me off what I wanted to be.”

Elizabeth Colomba attended the high school of art in Paris. After receiving her degree in applied arts she continued her studies, continuing to paint and to intensively develop her own style. Upon graduation from college she achieved a first class honors degree and most importantly, a mastery of an individual style and artistic expression. In the late nineties, after trying out her skills in the world of advertising, Colomba moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in painting and storyboarding, working on feature films like Romeo and Juliet, One Hour Photo, Jesse James, ASingle Man, and several others.

Colomba begins the creative process inspired by faces, rooms, or even clothing, which spark her imagination, and evolves from there. She often begins by drawing nude figures; she then follows by creating sketches of several clothed figures, settled in a space, surrounded by meaningful objects. It is this careful preparation that leads to the very detailed style of painting she is creating.

When asked who her artistic heroes are, Elizabeth Colomba eloquently replies, “I'd like to have Sargent’s touch, Caravaggio's light, Degas' vision, Vermeer's inscrutability and Velázquez's knowledge”. The influence of each can be seen in Elizabeth Colomba's work.

For Elizabeth Colomba, painting is primal. She can't think of living without doing it. To say it in other words, she lives to paint. The roots of her artistic expression are cerebral: Leonardo da Vinci was right, 'Painting is a mental act.'

Elizabeth Colomba

"What's in a name? That which we call a Rose by any other name would smell (just) as sweet.”— Shakespeare

In this aphorism Sir William advocates Otherness. And it is this sweet Otherness that thrives in Colomba's work. In it she infiltrates, subverts and re-defines our collective memory of Black people and Black culture; pigmentizing a History that in the West has been written and transmitted as bleached.

The artist's pursuit is that of a perceptual paradigm shift in which Black people will no longer be remembered as being portrayed playing banjos in raggedy clothes or smiling meekly at an absent observer. Her paintings re-define not only how Black people have been conditioned to exist, but also how Black people have been conditioned to reflect upon themselves. They address the heirs of the African diaspora, who, in Colomba's words will find 'a dignifying self-image in my work, a portrayal that blurs racial lines. An environment in which each individual will find mutual respect and freedom unrelated to the color of their skin."

It is this erasure of the Other that Colomba's work is about. Her paintings don't 'insert' Black people into the oeuvre of Western art. They rather generate a space for her subjects to inhabit the re-writing of their history, a history that honors their presence and place in and through culture and time.

Black people are an integral part of world history and have undoubtedly played a decisive role in the shaping of cultures. Their cultural and pictorial representation, however, was essentially invisible or denied before the 20th Century. Prior to Picasso's or Braque's 'insertion' of Black culture into Western art, Black people were depicted as anonymous, less-than-human entities deprived of the right of presence. Their place in the Oeuvre of art was secondary or tertiary at best. Their social status undeserving of other more respectable depictions.

Colomba's work is born through collision and reconciliation. By co-opting and re-configuring Western myths, religious iconography and folklore —historically written in white ink—she de-territorializes the areas in our psyche that have been conditioned to label and suppress the Other. Her images take place at instances of anticipation or aftermath, thereby holding a present that has not-yet happened and not-yet passed. The content and countenance of her paintings are deliberately classical, representational. Her subjects however, are not.

Colomba's paintings depict 'traditional' historical and literary subjects as Black, enabling the artist to challenge our inherited perceptual modes of socio-political conditioning. In this manner, she utilizes the same pictorial methods and techniques which have generated and sustained these socio-political conditions to subvert and integrate a sense of Otherness into our collective psyche. Her message is an egalitarian one of beauty in co-existence.

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