Above: Victoria Selbach | Autumn at Mille Fleurs 3 | Acrylic on Canvas | 30 x 60 inches or 76 x 152 ½ cm
Victoria Selbach’s Celebration of Women
Victoria Selbach is a painter of women. Her strong life-sized nudes, often in luminous chiaroscuro, speak of female power, courage, and diversity. Selbach’s artwork shows a strong bond to the women in her life and a solid belief in the sisterly connection between women everywhere. She prefers her large paintings to hang high on the wall so that the viewer has to look up in order to invite celebration of the epic heroine, the human goddess, evoking power, strength, potential. Hanging high these colossal women gain additional significance, emphasizing their life force.
Selbach started out painting portraits, but soon moved on to nudes. Using herself as model, her early nudes were cropped, often leaving out face and limbs—a sense of anonymity enhanced the mystery of the female body. After she started painting friends she realized that faces and hands are strong vehicles to portray personality and depth. Her nudes are confident, relaxed, strong—this is what makes them so beautiful. They always tell a story, but one doesn’t really need the artist’s explanation to appreciate them esthetically.
Selbach uses photography as her sketchbook, and enthusiastically describes the photoshoots as joyful, playful moments, in which the artist and model connect on a deeper level and the artwork takes root. After having worked exclusively in acrylics—which Selbach describes as meditative, more physically contained, sedentary— she recently started using oils. She switched her medium with the intention to impact her work method and, to her, this change feels like a complete restructuring of her mental processes. Selbach explains oils allow her to express herself more in a more physical way. Instead of sitting down quietly, working in sheer layers, she wields a painting knife or brush on her oil paintings using big gestural movements that are more akin to dancing and much more like she is; effervescent, animated, intense.
Selbach participates with two artworks in the much anticipated Chévere exhibition, curated by Didi Menendez and Sergio Gomez, held at the Sirona Fine Art, in Hallandale, Florida in early December, 2016. She will be showing a large acrylic on canvas and a grouping of 25 individual small oil paintings on panel, offering both mediums and therefore both her work styles to the viewer. Preparing work for the Chévere show gave Selbach a break from her customary process, which felt refreshing as well as challenging. Her large nude offers her meticulous signature style, while the group of small square paintings shows (her new) a more gestural approach.
The theme of ‘Carmen in Pierreandorskatz’ is a riff on Alice in Wonderland. ‘Carmen’ is a contemporary Latina artist within an imaginary landscape created in an amalgamation of images borrowed from the stylistic approaches of several notable white male artists. Pierre Bonnard inspired the shadows looming on the grass, the upper tree line was borrowed from Alex Katz, and the embankment along the stream was derived from Anders Zorn. The landscape alludes to the oppressive white male dominant art legacy influencing today’s art world.
In this piece Selbach experimented with new techniques. She explains, “The bank of the stream and the leaves are rendered as low relief sculpture, a crusty impasto creating a sense of three-dimensionality, while the figure of Carmen languidly slips into flattened imagery.” This piece is also meant to be hung high so the viewer’s eye level is at shoulder height. One looks down into the stream in the foreground and then sweeps the eyes up to take in the skyline. Selbach enthusiastically adds, “I’m currently looking for an AstroTurf matt to place on the floor under the painting so the viewer literally enters Carmen’s world.”
‘I Am Chévere’ is shown as a collection in a square grid, five across five down. These 25 portraits of women seen as a whole touch on the many facets of beauty found within an inclusive Latina community. While the Chévere exhibition focuses on the expressive energies which materialize and represent the people of the Latin Americas and their way of life, the participating artists were also asked to break stereotypes.
Selbach’s installation shatters the very concept that there can be any one stereotype when celebrating the vibrancy of an inclusive Latin community. These faces of beauty allude to a long history of varied generational experiences that bring us to today’s shared cultural richness and identity. While Selbach is acutely aware that she is a white woman painting a different culture, from her perspective this piece is about opening a light to the past, championing diversity, recognizing individuality, and strength through unity. This is about women standing heroically in support of one another, emphasizing openness, acceptance, and tolerance while celebrating and embracing both their shared cultural identity and their unique personal and generational experiences.
I embrace the ideas behind Selbach’s portraits and nudes wholeheartedly, not only as a feminist and an artist but also as part Latina. I find Selbach’s portrayal of the female nude exquisite, in both pose as well as pictorial approach. Her infectious enthusiasm about her work was palpable throughout the entire interview, so I hope her work with oils and painting knife invite larger than life gestures that will have her dancing in the studio while we wait for her latest work to arrive.
Written by Lorena Kloosterboer, realist artist & author © Antwerp, September 2016