Friday marked the unveiling of Laura BenAmots' Battle Portraits: Wounded Lions Wounded Lambs project. Years in the making, BenAmots' paintings and drawings (some to a dramatic scale), were all displayed together for the first time at the Business of Art Center. This night was also the arrival of a catalog on the project, published by the BAC to begin what it hopes will be an ongoing venture.
The story behind the paintings is incredible, but the works on their own are stunning. The Hagnauer Gallery holds some of the largest pieces, painted on unstretched canvases. A series of three faces shrouded in glimmery dashes of sienna, purple and teal make up "Cliff Ghost I, II, III." BenAmots achieved a shimmering effect by incorporating slashes of bright white paint within the colors, which is quite intriguing.
"Shared Crown" hangs in the same space, and it's a monolith. Based on the story of a Vietnam veteran BenAmots interviewed, "Crown" portrays deep psychological turmoil roiling beneath the twisted face of the sitter. Staring straight at the viewer — one eye in remarkable, penetrating detail, the other obscured in shadow — the man shows palpable and deeply affecting pain. His head may be swathed in cloth, with streams of blood trickling over his brow, but his jaw is set.
Other works throughout the front space of the BAC (also devoted to the show) reveal BenAmots' softer side. Faces here receive layers upon layers of soft grayish paints, recalling a spectral state of deep emotional contemplation. Drawings from the early days of the project are similarly sensitive, employing gentle peach pastels tangling with jagged pencil lines — sketches of the frustrations and anguish BenAmots found in her subjects.
Try not to miss this exhibit, really. It's excellent, and it's up through Feb. 23. After that, it will travel to CSU-Pueblo's Fine Art Gallery and then Colorado College's I.D.E.A. Space, according to BenAmots. According the Battle Portraits website, it's also slated for display at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center in January 2013.