Laurie Katz Yehia
Inspired by sacred texts, philosophy and literature, Yehia’s work explores the nature of
what we see and how we respond. Her mixed media paintings and constructions with re-
purposed objects encourage seeing beyond the habitual or status quo. At the same time,
the work is to be experienced simply as “what is,” which is something other than
language and incapable of precise understanding.
“Song of Songs” (2009), one of a series of oil paintings with mixed media on linen
canvas, was inspired by Old Testament passages and by passages of Radiance Sutras
from the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, Sutra 3. Layered, graffiti-like markings on plaster
evoke the texts graphically, while dissolving and tessellated imagery evoke their themes
of dispersement and re-unification with the Divine.
The “Purgatory” series was inspired by imagery and themes in Dante’s The Divine
Comedy. “Purgatory” (2011) re-ˇcontextualizes Dante’s 14th century allegorical poem of
spiritual growth and salvation, which in contemporary lexicon is about personal growth
and transformation through the integration of unconscious “shadows” with enlightened
“consciousness.” The painting’s surface grew out of a searching process that included
burning, scraping and sanding as well as applying tar, marble sand and oil paint.
“Adamantine” (2011) evokes the first of three steps leading up to Purgatory, described
by Dante as: “White marble…I saw myself reflected as I was.” (Canto IX, 94-ˇ96). Oil
paint and plaster are mixed with white marble sand to take on properties of white marble,
known for its relative resistance to shattering and capacity for taking on a reflective
polish. “Lethe” (2011) refers to the “sacred river,” which washes away all memory of sin
in Dante’s Earthly Paradise. The surface of thick oil paint, tar and marble sand was
inspired by “the heavenly forest thick with living green” where the inexhaustible stream
“flows dark, very dark, beneath an everlasting shade…” (Canto XXVIII, 2, 31-ˇ32).
“Empyrean” (2012) combines white oil paints, gesso, vellum and paper to express the
realm of light, geometry and “the fusion of all things” in the highest heaven of Dante’s
Paradise. (Canto XXXIII, 92).
“Light Emerging” (2013) invites contemplation of the relationship between object and art
as well as between materiality and energy. In “Switches” (2013), re-purposed objects
become repetitive forms with a minimal palette and invite shifts in perspective of
function, aesthetic value and meaning. Light switches suggest being empowered to turn
energy on and off. “Ex Nihilo” (2017) is constructed with re-purposed wall switch plates,
without the switches. Empty spaces in the plates, and the central oil painting surrounded
by blank plates, evoke an inherent power to “switch” – and to create something from
nothing. Repetition and variation in the wall plates of “Awakening” (2017) explore
geometries, colors and values associated with the energy of intention, awareness and
action. The “Sacred Resistance” series (2018) are single wall switch plates painted and
mounted on wood panels. Each one envisions being empowered to “flip the switch” in