American Art Collector
Issue 113, March 2015
Upcoming Show Preview, “Fatima Ronquillo: Possession”
View PDF file AACMarch2015
Diana goddess of the hunt and the moon, spoke to animals and turned Actaeon into a stag so he would be devoured by his own hunting dogs.
Huntress peers out from Fatima Ronquillo’s painting, demure with her single strand of pearls, self-possessed and agelessly childlike. Her quiver is ready on her shoulder, and the gold and crescent-shaped pearl diadem in her hair symbolizes her deity. The painting is also a reference to a tradition in British painting of women dressing as Diana for their portraits.
Ronquillo says, “Sometimes I mistrust my instinct,” but her instinct guides her through the doubt. Her preliminary drawings may not have enough information when she begins to paint, but the paintings come together―sometimes if she just walks away or works on another painting.
The painting Little Chief with Dog needed something before it was finished, “so I added the feathers on the ledge. There needed to be a little red there, but it couldn’t take away from the dog.”
When asked if the single pearl earring in Acrobat with Pearl is a reference to Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, she replies, “No, you just can’t see the other one.” She recalls her grandmother’s love of jewelry and her unrolling her jewelry wraps to show her granddaughter the treasures inside.
Ronquillo is drawn to Picasso, as well as Watteau, and likes the characters in commedia dell’arte―the harlequin costume appears often in her work, although she says the pattern is tedious to paint. She keeps a “mental card catalog” of literary, musical and art historical references to draw on for inspiration.
Her latest paintings are in the exhibition Possession at Wally Workman Gallery in Austin, Texas, March 7 through 28. Possession, Ronquillo says, “refers to ownership, as well as to the mental state of infatuation,” as she recalls the lyrics of Kate Bush’s song Cloudbusting:
But everytime it rains
You’re in my head
Like the sun coming out
Ooh, I just know that something good is
going to happen
And I don’t know when
But just saying it could even make it
Her characters are “children in an adult role,” Ronquillo explains, “they’re so serious in a sometimes ridiculous situation. Some people think they’re sad. I find them amusing. I don’t want them to be jokes though. They are characters who believe in their moment, living in their own reality.”
“Fatima’s work fascinates the intellectual and the aesthetic mind. Through her incredible layering, symbolism and rich coloring, angelic yet curious characters emerge and reach between centuries, whispering a narrative that finds life within the viewer’s mind. Each piece is truly a treasure, full of history and sparkle.” ―Rachel Stephens, partner, Wally Workman Gallery