My Love is Another Kind, on exhibition at Adobe Books Backroom Gallery, is the debut solo exhibition of Gina M. Contreras. A recent graduate of San Francisco Art Institute, Contreras daydreams through screen prints and paintings. She is a witness to the small moments and idiosyncrasies of other people, specifically the elderly. The aged are an invisible other in American society to which Contreras creates loving narratives on the sweetness, loneliness and possibility in their lives while also drawing attention to the societal tendency to be dismissive and easily repulsed by our inevitable future existence.
My interest in the work of Gina Contreras comes from my own observations of my family. I have three living grandparents and I’ve watched them and listened to them and seen them have new experiences. The specialness in these moments captured lies in the depth and innocence that occurs simultaneously in experiences with my own grandparents. It is this same simultaneity linking depth and innocence that Gina Contreras is able to portray in her work. These are not simply old people, doing cliché, sad old people things, someone is taking time to notice them, and articulate on paper the small parts to their everyday and their very present need for love as well as desire for possibility.
The series If Only Things Were Like That is an installation of page selections from the hand screen-printed artist book of the same name. A new acquisition to the SFMoMA collection, If Only Things Were Like That, depicts an older couple listening to music, walking in the park, and embracing. What we learn from the book, that we don’t fully know from the installation is that this love depicted, is a dream of one of the women. As the book begins she is asleep, and as we turn the pages we see into her dreams of finding a partner to exist in her everyday with. On the last page, again the woman is sleeping and we realize the story was only her dream. The concurrent emotional range of sadness and hope that the viewer finds herself experiencing in the artist book is a great testament to the success of Contreras’ ability as a storyteller.
When asked what books Contreras turns to for her own inspiration (being that this exhibition is in a bookstore y’all) Gina casually states the alcoholic misogynist, Charles Bukowski, as a muse. Realize this, gentle reader, Bukowski dwells in the same issues as Contreras, love and loneliness, with a crudeness and awkward confessionary aspect that Gina’s images also mirror. Although a provocative favorite author, Bukowski speaks to a rawness and honesty in his observations and experiences that Contreras uses in theme, but covers in beauty. Contreras’ palette of beiges, rose colors, muted and mixed pastels create a feeling of home and nostalgia. Her use of floral patterns as a motif and as landscape considers the language flowers speak, in their history and representation. Flowers are fleeting and have a lifecycle, but are an eternal thematic design inspiration.
Just like love.
–Nicole Lattuca, Guest Curator