AHA Fine Art is pleased to present Nomadic Treasures: an exhibition featuring new and recent paintings, sculptures, photographs, prints, collages, textiles, film animation, and mixed media works by select artists. Meet the artists on Thursday, August 31st from 6-8pm at the gallery.

The artists in Nomadic Treasures explore personal themes of identity such as religion, spirituality and culture and their connections to larger forces, such as the natural world, by exploring how they are inherently connected to pre- and post- colonial abuses of power, warfare, community, and environment. Depicting portraits, figures, temples, mythic treasures and objects/relics, landscapes, and fantastical animals, these artists realize - and personalize journeys - relating to migrant, immigrant and intrinsically ancestral experiences.

Manuel Hernandez shapes his canvases, referencing forms found in nature as heinterchanges portraits of contemporary and Indigenous people surrounded by pre-colonial imagery referencing art and architecture including temples and vestiges of votive sculptures. His painting process encourages a dialogue between the artist and his subject matter, exploring beliefs, gender, family history, racism, environmentalism, and other topics that arise of importance to the artist. These then show up in visual vocabulary present in the painting, spanning text and personal iconography.

Rigo Flores takes on cultural commentary in Verde II (right) where he references Narco-Culture as he renders the liminal, blurred reality in the glorification of Jesus Malverde, a folkloric Mexican hero known as the “angel of the poor” who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Mexican cartels adopted him as a patron saint, identifying with his heroic and qualities of giving to the poor. As a young girl reaches out to touch him for good luck, Flores highlights the hypocrisy, propaganda and inconsistencies associated with many cultural, religious, folkloric and political heroes and icons, nodding to present day political scandals and mafia glorification. Flores also employs unique techniques in his practice, embracing materials such as tortilla warmers adorned with embroidery, further investigating how cultural violence permeates all aspects of society. Baracas, Pyramid and Flat Top, a hilltop rock formation, emulates the exterior of ancient pyramids of the ancient world, where the sun interweaves in the stones’ grooves to form bold shadows with frenetic brush strokes.

Kellyann Monaghan’s work highlights the awesome and uncontrollable impact of nature as she depicts structures made from natural sources while referencing geological borders. Pyramids symbolize how cultures immortalize the deities dictating the rhythms of the natural world, displaying cosmological beliefs and cultural complexities. Monaghan’s practice explores the intersection of nature and humankind, resulting natural disasters, and the wild, ominous and untamed beauty of nature.

Emphasizing the outsize impact of generational stories and folklore, artists Nyahzul, Caroline Voagen Nelson, Palu Abadia, and Christina Lafontaine form the 'Fakelore' collective that creates work which animate and recreate folktales from North and South American countries, teaching us that storytelling and oral tradition, in some cultures, remains a primal source of knowledge exchange. This site-specific 4-channel video installation using stop motion animation (Madremonte photo still shown right), tells a tale of the foliage covered, mysterious enchantress Madremonte, who oversees the Colombian mountains. She uses her powers to protect nature from intruders. In the installation, a stop motion pixelated version of Madremonte hides and blends in with the environment.

The digital monitors reveal different perspectives of her as they’re hidden within the installation of grass and moss. The 'Fakelore' collective aims to retell stories of our ancestors in a manner composed of a hybrid of digitally rendered photographic images.

Probing past studies, Simon Safos combines surrealism and naturalism in an autobiographical journey of the soul. Safos captures rapturous and dramatic shafts of light, illuminating his subjects against dark, contrasting shadows. The artist employs similar painting techniques as 16th century master artist Caravaggio, who similarly used contemporary models to depict historical and religious scenes. Safos, brings the past into the present with sweeping brush strokes rendering an emblematic symbol of nature: a serpentine tree of life, memorializing and reincarnating our past and connecting present and future. Scattered locks of hair intimate a sense of familiarity, while the impersonal and awesome forces of nature are expressed as roots of a tree growing from and around a figure’s head, perhaps as a metaphor for the weight of past and ever present emotions stirring within the trunk, invisible yet potent.

Jose Arenas intersperses fragmented body parts throughout his compositions. Pieces of figures - floating halves of torsos connected to lovingly intertwined arms and hands, typography, landscape, and ornate patterns - hint at the fragments of our identities and allow the viewer to complete how we compartmentalize, or unify, disparate aspects of who we are. Dual identities and the feeling of displacements, “from growing up in two countries [California and Guadalajara, Mexico],” reflects Arenas, “are explored in this work.” By adopting collage elements present from Mexican neighborhoods and street signs, Arenas invites the viewer to explore displacement as he and others familiar with immigration assimilate themselves into different inhabitants and cultures.

In Aviva the Mermaid (left), Lauren Evans invites us to investigate a dense and evocative color palette. Combining smooth and textured brush strokes, oxidized greens and iridescent colors juxtaposed with pastel and cool blues and muted colors, Evans reveals and withholds meaning in her enigmatic mermaid. Mermaids and sirens originally arose as legendary beings historically associated with tempestuous water, foreshadowing disasters and luring sailors to their death. Similar to other artists, Evens recalls the conflicting dichotomy in good versus evil, chaos versus calm, and how these themes intersect with seductive and idyllic beauty.

Through their visual language, these artists bridge universal imagination with personal investigations of memory, cultural identity and folklore. By exploring how the ancient past still has a hold on our present, while exploring how abuses of power, man-made and natural disasters continue to create a chaotic present, artists invite the viewer to build/recount their stories and testimonials that move from the past to the present in Nomadic Treasures.