Local artist Reina Apraez debuts romantic artwork at Pastabilities

Syracuse-based artist Reina Apraez hosted her solo gallery reception “Romance; Borrowed Verses; Fantastic Death," commenting on how she finds death quirky.

Local artist Reina Apraez, 27, debuted her gallery show “Romance; Borrowed Verses; Fantastic Death” at Pastabilities on Sunday, October 11.  The restaurant, located at 311 S. Franklin St., has been a fixture for downtown Syracuse-based artists and foodies alike.  Now, Apraez can add her name to the extensive list of artists that have graced the popular establishment’s brick walls.

Photo: Anna Leach
Frank Cetera takes a moment to share the news of the showing at Pastabilities Oct. 11.

“Romance; Borrowed Verses; Fantastic Death” is a collection of 12 acrylic and mixed media paintings centered around themes of feminine romance, poetics and the quirky characteristics of death through floral and skeletal imagery.  Apraez, who received her training at Hobart and William Smith College, says this particular series is an exploration of how death can have a whimsical side, one that is at once morbid and romantic.

“Death is playful, and I’m into that,” said Apraez.  “Death destroys institutions and establishments — I think that’s fun.”

Apraez’s art draws heavily on German expressionism, a 20th century art movement focused on evoking mood rather depicting physical reality (see Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”), as well as abstractionism.  This collection also draws on religious imagery, particularly that which can be found in German and Dutch paintings and Latin American Catholic folk art.  Although Apraez is not a religious person, she says she finds truth and knowledge in religious teachings and the various cultures of believers.

Bold and colorful, Apraez’s macabre subjects in “Fantastic Death” aren’t confined to the usual somber colors and actions associated with passing away.  In her work “Fantastic Death: VI,” two blonde skeletons gleefully dance in a field of multicolor grass made of hurried brushstrokes and dabs of paint.  A crude murder of crows surrounds them in the background.  The sky is a haphazard splash of blues, violets, and mauves.  “Fantastic Death: IV” transforms a human ribcage into a darling English tea time dessert tray, complete with fruit and flora peeking out beneath the second and third ribs.

Her series “Romance” revolves around feminized thoughts of romantic love.  To accomplish this she channels her “first love” Cy Twombly into her work.  Twombly was a mid-20th century abstract artist whose works predominantly feature dripping, blending colors, harsh lines and vaguely floral shapes.  Apraez expresses this influence in her work “Repetitions: III,” a sensuous mass of oozing pastel flowers against a velvety black background. 

Reviews of the gallery by early viewers have been positive:

“I love the way she [Apraez] juggles the gruesome and the playful,” said Meg Johnson, 27, a landscape architect and hobby painter.  “Her application of textural mixed media is so fun.”

“Her work is tragically romantic,” said Michelle Makai, 31, a personal friend of Apraez.  “I love when she mixes pastel colors with skeletons.”

Ryland Heagerty, floor manager and unofficial art solicitor at Pastabilities, organized the display of Apraez’s artwork.  Heagerty, daughter of owner Karyn Korteling, said since its establishment in 1982, the restaurant has aimed not just to be a place to get a fantastic Italian dinner, but to also serve as a place for local artists to install permanent and semi-permanent art works. 

“Romance; Borrowed Verses; Fantastic Death” can be viewed at Pastabilities Monday - Saturday, 11:30 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.  The best hours to view the gallery are between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.  The exhibition will be displayed up until November 10.  Admission is free. 

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