Review | Monica Bartos’s ‘Gratitude’

Self-Taught Artist Creates Work with Deep Dimension

Artist Monica Bartos in front of Santa Barbara Hospice where she work on display. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

Entering the Leigh Block Gallery, we are greeted by a beautifully rendered upraised thumb, a very fine place to start in Monica Bartos’s new solo exhibition, “Gratitude.” The thumb, with its wrinkled — a k a “lived-in” — condition, functions as both a symbol of affirmation and a bold example of the artist’s skill in the fine, challenging art of depicting hands and couplings and parts thereof.

Painted in stark and form-delineating black/white/gray hues on a beige/skin-like background, the sentinel-like thumb leads to a beautiful array of artworks strategically arranged in the space. A long back wall consists of hand paintings, mixed in with smaller, airy pen-on-paper drawings, a few tiny full-colored hand paintings, and a portrait of the artist as a serious and compassionate visage, her face awash in Neo-Fauvist palette.

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