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Review: The Matriarchs and And the Beat Goes On 

Photographs from Cristina Molina and paintings from Dona Lief

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All over the world, nature and motherhood have been viewed as fundamental facets of life on earth. But if Mother's Day seems like a natural holiday, Earth Day can seem more like an afterthought, and those concerns coalesce in multimedia artist Cristina Molina's photographic and video works at The Front. With her native south Florida as a backdrop, Molina focuses on three generations of her Latina family members ranging from glamorous young women and elegant middle-age women to a magisterial matriarch. Some appear in dreamlike arrangements in garments cut from the same floral cloth like surreal scenes from Hispanic fiction (pictured), while others evoke saints with palmetto frond halos. Florida's sinking coastal plains provide an otherworldly backdrop for scenes where finely formed human hands appear as petals on tropical flora. A dreamy video, The Ice of the World, explores the challenge of navigating the labyrinths of family and nature in a time of looming deluge, as the ice of the world melts into currents inexorably rising to claim what we assumed was ours.

  Dona Lief's retrospective at Coup d'oeil Art Consortium is comprised of meticulously crafted works from the 1970s to the present. After starting out as a creator of strange oversized insect sculptures, Lief morphed into painting pop stars and celebrities as mutant species, replete with colorful wings, sharp mandibles and spindly antennae, as all-too-familiar figures inlcuding Madonna, Britney Spears and Michael Jackson were reincarnated as moths, flies and mantises — individuals microwaved by relentless media glare into strange hybrid beings defined by iridescent outer husks so opaque that it's a mystery what is left beneath the facade. Her most human portraits are of local rappers and bounce artists such as Katey Red and Big Freedia — figures not yet metamorphosed into the predictably chimerical life forms that characterize American celebrity culture today.

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