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July 16 to August 16, 1998

[Female] + [Male] = ?

Betty Kovacic

[Female]+ [Male]  = ? is a visual exploration of the complicated relationships which occur between women and men. Issues surrounding dreams and expectations, actions and reactions are addressed. Physical realities, along with the psychological or emotional states of those in love, are expressed. This show is about lasting love, destructive passions, and romance. It is about the role of love, and its significance in one’s life.

The human figure is an integral image in this body of work. Depicted in various stages of realism and nudity, the human body becomes a powerful vehicle of expression. It can act as a metaphor for natural innocence, freedom, vulnerability and carnal knowledge. Above all, the nude figure represents the unencumbered being. Here nudity goes far beyond physical undressing. It is about the baring of the soul.

Other levels of meaning can be found in the symbols and archetypes that are sometimes obvious, other times ambiguous. Ancient and modern myths, or current cultural beliefs or clichés, are also important references. An example is the saying, “there are plenty of fish in the sea,” which is supposed to comfort an individual who has just broken off a relationship. However, considering the sharks and other dangerous creatures of the deep, these words can become ironic, as expressed by the piece of the same title.

Furthermore symbols may allude simultaneously to several cultures and themes. For instance, crows are usually perceived to be a trickster or an image of mortality or death. Yet in ancient Egypt, two crows together represent monogamy. The same holds true for two black horses, which are powerful portents of death due to their association with the funeral carriage. In the story of the Trojan Wars, the hero’s wife, Andromache, expresses her devoted love for her husband, Hector, by feeding his horses with her own hand. The black horses in Life’s Illusions and Letting Go play a dual role. Although they are symbols for lasting love and devotion, they are also a strong reminder that death comes to all.

Ordinary objects that have visual and emotional impact can also be forceful images. The common building nail illustrates this idea very well. Usually regarded as a useful item that holds things together, a nail does not seem sinister. However, when embedded in flesh, it screams of physical assault, pain, and violence. Nails that pierce a halo, shriek out with the agony of spiritual attack, soul-crushing injury and unbearable suffering.

Not all the symbolic objects are man-made. Many come from nature, which is very capable of creating evil-looking plants, and animals. The thistle leaf, with its wicked thorns, seemed effective in much of my work. I later learned that the thistle, due to its allusion to Christ’s crown of thorns, is about pain and sorrow. This common plant has further meanings. It is also a Scottish symbol and represents defiance. In the painting, The Keeper, The Man Not the Fish, the thistle refers to my husband, Blaine’s, ancestry. It may be of interest to know that the fabric came from a tea towel that belonged to his grandma.

Nature is also proficient at making beautiful plants and animals. Decorative objects, such as roses and their leaves say much about love and current cultural practices regarding romance. With their sharp thorns, roses and love have more in common than first meets the eye. A rose whose petals and leaves have lost their colour speak of loss, be it physical emotional or spiritual. Like the rose, the daisy represents the joy of spring, yet because of its association with the Virgin Mary, it also alludes to great sorrow.

Appearance was not the only criteria for using images. Many had names with affiliations to mythological stories. Others had names that brought forth emotional responses. One such image is the insect, the Mourning Cloak butterfly. With its sombre blue colours, it became the finishing touch in the sculpture, Letting Go. Another insect known as the Cankerworm moth had strong associations to the idea of sores and ulcers that heal slowly. It thereby became an effective image for expressing the pain and bitterness of separation. With a name linked to a mythological hero, whose name means foreknowledge, the Promethea moth is a strong symbol in the piece If We Only Knew. This painting with its allusion to the uncertainty of the future, speaks of the chances people take in the name of love.

Many additional symbols, myths and cultural beliefs have been used, each bringing with them an unlimited potential for meaning. Based upon her or his life experiences, the viewer will interpret each piece in their own way. This body of work, with its wealth of symbolism and metaphor, challenges the audience’s perceptions about relationships. Besides being a record it is a comment on the games of love. Although the question [Female] + [Male] = ? has been examined from many angles, it may be left unanswered.

Betty Kovacic

Two Rivers Gallery > Experience Art > Past Exhibitions > 1998 > Betty Kovacic: [Female] + [Male] = ?

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