Federico Correa enjoyed his time in Norfolk. His successful stay included selling 27 paintings on the opening night of his show at London Square Gallery, the Colley Avenue venue hosting "Mexicanidad." Yet on his way to the airport last Saturday afternoon, the artist was frankly ready to go home.
"I miss Mexico," Correa said simply. Though he lived in Norfolk from 1983 until 2003 and holds a Bachelor's of Fine Arts from Old Dominion University, Correa found the city too busy this time around--too many cars.
Correa credits his move to San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico five years ago with changing his painting. "I love it there," he said simply. "I especially love painting there." Correa paints in the quiet of the Mexican night, between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., in the company of the nickel-size stars above his terrace.
Correa's painting method is unique, and his art is not preconceived. Correa describes his technique in the show's catalogue: "When I look at the canvas, I can see the work is already in there and my job is to bring it out."
Correa's Catholic upbringing is evident in his use of established Catholic symbolism. The colors blue and white reference the Virgin and purity in the Mexican bride series. Correa's paintings frequently feature animal symbols. Dogs, for example, symbolize St. Roche, protector of plague victims in the Catholic tradition.
There are also images that are uniquely Mexican. Skeletons represent the Día de los Muertos. The painting "Singing Praises of Llorona," portrays a figure from Mexican folklore: the ghost of a frightening woman who haunts the Rio Grande seeking her children.
Mexican Poet Octavia Paz has influenced Correa's work. One piece referencing Paz's 1950 poem "The Labyrnth of Solitude," considered to be a quintessential study of Mexican identity, seems especially appropriate in "Mexicanidad."
Tales of Judgement
John Timothy Close
Director of Tacoma's Museum of Glass: International Center for Contemporary Art
Images of Ambiente: Homotexuality and Latin American Art 1810 to Today
Dr. Rudi C. Bleys, Art Historian,Author
Correa’s “universal chords” are visually explored through dramatic sweeps of paint, texture and color that depict both unique, highly personal symbols and long established Catholic iconography. The narrative is as densely layered as a medieval altarpiece, in which a seemingly simple shape, color or object signifies a complex philosophical or religious concept.
Mexicanidad: Federico Correa
Director of Education, Emeritus (retired)
Chrysler Museum of Art
Artist Federico Correa “produces paintings that are inscribed within the great Spanish traditions of Goya and Roman Catholic sensibility”…with “vivid, yet ambivalent images of either the carnivalesque or morbid, good or evil, strik(ing) a universal chord while at the same time testifying to the artist’s Latino cultural heritage”. As stated in the book Images of Ambiente by author and art historian Rudi C. Bleys, Ph. D.
Above work Copyright Protected ,2014 (c) by Federico Correa. All Rights Reserved.
Quien Eres Tu, Quien Eres Tu
, Oil/Canvas 8X7 Feet
Art: Idiosyncratic Catholic
Like his faith, Federico Correa’s Solo Show is All About Dichotomy
Educator, Art Critic
Similarly, fiery, saturated colors and frenetic brushstrokes in some paintings are tamed by a cooler, neutralized palette and Roualtesque outline in others.
In the work of artist Federico Correa, the Apollonian and the Dionysian—the dichotomous instinctual drives about which Friedrich Nietzsche wrote so insightfully—are locked in an uncompromising union. A quintessential expressionist painter, the irrepressible Correa surely understands, perhaps at an intuitive level, that the sensual, irrational, orgiastic excesses and destruction of the Dionysian must be balanced by the rational, controlled moderation and creation of the Apollonian.
Currently residing in Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende, Correa, formerly of Norfolk, paints intensely personal works about universal themes, often with particularly Catholic and/or Mexican flavor. Alternating between the emblematic and the narrative, his compositions are at times formal, symmetrical and hieratic; at other times somewhat classical; and at still others a swirling vortex or radial explosion. Space may be shallow, deep, stacked or ambiguous and imagery clearly defined or dissolving into near non-objectivity, whatever the subject seems to demand. Figures are always robust.
Archetypal, Catholic and idiosyncratic, the artist’s iconography may be accessed and understood on more than one level without contradiction. A painting entitled The Journey to Tenochtitlan, depicts a lush tropical setting in which a hand bearing a stigmata hovers in a blessing gesture over a boat bearing a man toward monumental steps with a large anatomical heart lodged in the water in the foreground. On the universal level, and without benefit of contextual information, the image appears to be about journey and striving within a religious context. And, in fact it is. Specifically, it is a kind of history painting documenting Hernan Cortes’s approach to a pyramid in the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) which references the Aztec belief that daily sacrifice was necessary in order for the Sun God to rise.
SOUTH OF THE BORDER: Former Norfolk Resident Federico Correa creates new art inspired by his home: Mexico.
Elsewhere, repeated ovals represent stones and symbolize hardship and the terrain of Correa’s youth. However, they also read as eggs and, hence, symbolize rebirth. Fences shelter and restrict. Small houses clearly represent home and community, specifically Correa’s in the "‘Mexican’ part" of Soledad, California, where he was born.
Inspired also by the history of art and by poetry, Correa recontextualizes the work of Matisse, placing his reclining nudes in a landscape of yucca, cacti and stones. The universal struggle between good and evil and man and woman is everywhere present, most obviously in the form of pink devils and donkeys and white-clad virgins and brides. Christian themes of the Deposition and the Assumption, as well as lesser known biblical references, take on collective significance through Correa’s interpretations. And reinterpretations of secular stories, tales and personal memories express the more profound aspects of the human condition: the struggle to know oneself, to recognize one’s aloneness and to establish communion with others.
Birthday Cake oil/canvas, 7x8 feet
"Federico Correa ... ..produces paintings that are inscribed within the great Spanish Traditions of Goya and Roman Catholic sensibility . The emotional flamboyance and intensity of his work are a reflection , so that he admits, of his own guilt-ridden attiude regarding his sexual identity. His vivid , yet ambivilent images of either carnivalesque or morbid , good or evil, strike a universal chord while at the same time testifying to the artist's Latino cultural heritage.
The figures in these paintings are anonymous but identified by their gender. Their roles are abusive and exaggerated. Parental figures are often distorted and sometimes appear as horrific nurturing animals. Childlike figures are nondescript. Their identity is portrayed through a presence of innocence. While these central figures hover and occupy large portions of the canvas, secondary characters are usually interwned in sexually oriented positions. They collide physically and emotionally with one another as if in a dream.
Federico Correa on “Mexicanidad”
Educator, Art Critic
Dance and Muse, oil/canvas, 7x8 feet
Curator at William King Regional Arts Center
Federico Correa employs Christian inconography in a higly charged , personal symbology. A California-born Mexican-American, Correa views the dog/sheep figure in Dishonoring the Salamander as representative of how he interfaces with American society. Submerged in a dream world , the figure carries religious import with its halo , lamp as a light of wisdom, and cross in the window frame behind it.
Dishonoring the Salamander oil/canvas, 8x7 feet
The familial, sexual, religious and mythical references in his work are both targets and icons. While he mocks and slashes at the figures and conventions which he once revered and now has learned to view as abusers and their instruments, he instinctively seeks relief and absolution within the same belief systems. As powerfully conveyd in his paintiong, Gabri-el, reclamatiion of power and declamination of identity are both painful and joyous.
The great poignancy in Correa's painting lies in the conflict between the real and the ideal, the need to be free and the desire to be embraced. Long-standing faith and newly-found assertiveness, not despair, underlie the lurid carnality and heartbreakng frankness of Correa's work. He sees Dante's Hell the reflection of Paradise.
Dean/ Educator/Art Critic
Corcoran School of Art
Federico Correa achieves shattering impact through his highly personal paintings, fueled by early domestic experiences. The canvas is where he performs excorcism; anxious and angry charges are made against unrelenting demons of the past and present, exposing them to the light.
Gabriel, Oil/Canvas, 8 X 7 Feet
Correa’s paintings also reference specific, complex, and often difficult episodes of his personal and family history…events that are encapsulated into highly personal visual symbols.
Dies Irae Oil/Canvas 7X8 Feet
Other long established Catholic symbols include the disembodied hands, arms of God reaching down from heaven (Assumption, the August 15 Catholic celebration of the ascent to Heaven of the Virgin’s body and soul). Skeletons have long been the universal symbol of death and transition. Correa’s cheerfully rattling bones are clearly connected with the Mexican Dia de los Muertos celebration of papier mache and sugar skeletons in which death is mocked and consumed. Dogs, connected in Catholic symbolism to St. Roche, the protector of plague victims, also appear as silent, non-judgmental watchers. (Arroyo Seco) The color blue is a centuries old reference to the Virgin, while the white of purity is referenced in a series of bride images (Castration; Ripe) and the sleeping child in (Crowded Bed).
The cultural heritage of Federico Ernesto Pablo Macias Correa shapes his visual narrative as a “philosophical investigation of human existence.” (Images of Ambiente, Rudi C. Bleys) The artist’s grandparents were from Northern Mexico. His parents lived in California. Federico (b. 1945) is the third of seven children. He grew up in Soledad, a farming community in California’s Salinas Valley. Norfolk was home from 1983 to 2003. He currently lives in San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico.
Federico Correa's large-scale paintings are visually compelling and emotionally violent and painful. They are filled with highly charged familial issues. These naratives contain diliberate aspects of sexuality, incest, incertitude, provocation , death and expulsion. Therein lies the extreme clash of the traditional family hierarchy.
Homosexuality recurrently comes to the surface , if only as a narrative enclosed within more philosophical investigation of human existance. The male body , flaunting a huge erection , while lying on top of a birthday cake (Birthday Cake, 1988), is a signifier of both the family dogma 's grip, and the gay man's desire to escape from it. The body's severed limbs and the penis' reddened appearance are visual icons of homosexuality's stigma. The image, says Correa, "is soaked in [the] hypocrisy [of] Catholicism and family tradition . It is thickly coated with subdued violence , destruction and cruelty...all in the name of love."
For as much swirling, tumbling and passionate action as there is in these paintings, there is also a lot of placid and dispassionate watching. Dogs, birds, repeated eyes and shadowy silhouettes serve in the roles of observers.