Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach
by Shirle Gottlieb

Forget the title. The light-hearted imagery that springs to mind at the sound of the term, A Woman’s Touch, is the antithesis of the powerful work you will encounter here. Three years in development, this astonishing exhibit showcases the sculptures of four exceptional women artists from four geographic regions of Latin American who express their inner vision through four different materials.

With the exception of Maria Izquierdo and Frida Kahlo, most Latin American women were denied artistic recognition before the 1960s. The artists in this exquisitely installed exhibit, therefore, are products of cultures which have only recently allowed women to participate in the male-dominated world of sculpture. Peruvian Margarita Checa works in wood, Puerto Rican Susana Espinosa sculpts in clay, Panamanian Isabel de Obaldia molds forms from glass, and Mexican Patricia Waisburd (known as “Peschel”) constructs with paper. However, each explores the human figure. Upon entering the gallery, you’ll notice that a rose-colored glow radiates from the analogous colors of the sculptures. Juxtaposed as they are against complimentary teal-blue walls, the wood, clay, glass and paper forms are a knock -out.

Working mostly with polished olive wood, Checa carves lyrical life-sized figures. Highly stylized with downcast eyes and bald bowed heads, they appear to be frozen in time. Whether children, animals, adults in a row boat, or a baby in a mysterious box, these lovely mythic archetypes evoke loneliness, alienation, and quiet supplication.