"Three Cuban Women Photographers: Cirenaica Moreira, Marta Maria Perez Bravo and Elsa Mora at Fraser Gallery"
At the Fraser Gallery Georgetown to March 17, 2004
By Louis Jacobson
Washington City Paper
Thursday, March 12, 2004.

photo by Cirenaica MoreiraLast year, when the Fraser Gallery Bethesda hosted its Cuban-art exhibition "De Aqui y de Alla (From Here and From There)" the gallery's walls were filled with political fervor, even rage. By contrast, the artists showing at Fraser's Georgetown outpost in "Three Cuban Women Photographers" focus their passion inward - if not quietly, then at least elusively. The subdued black-and-white toning and feathered borders of Marta Maria Perez Bravo's photographs belie the visceral nature of their subject matter: the iconography of Santeria.

Though non-initiates will likely be confounded by the images' meanings, its hard not to feel their mysterious power at a gut level: an arm fitted with a prosthesis that looks like a severed rhinoceros horn, a human head with a pained expression and a thick coating of either mud or blood, and a torso seemingly punctured by dozens of metal nails.

Similar in technique and mood are the self-portraits of Cirenaica Moreira, who flaunts the trappings of her sexiness (tousled hair, long limbs, fancy boudoir hand mirrors) even as she undercuts them with mechanical appendages (a ripe "womb" made of metal and gauze, binoculars tied to her head with twine, and a hatpin piercing a nasty forehead boil; pictured).

Elsa Mora's works stand out for their striking palette of amber, rose and crimson, with each color shown at ist best on textured paper. Some of Mora's David Levinthal-esque images of old toys are as obscure as Perez Bravo's, but others are convincingly nightmarish, from a seemingly endless landscape of severed doll legs to a Robert Smithson-worthy spiral of dried rosebuds that slowly morph into cockroaches. As in the other artists' works, politics aren't missing from Mora's equation - they are just sublimated.

The show is on view from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and from noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays, to Wednesday, March 17, 2004 at the Fraser Gallery, 1054 31st Street, NW. Free. (202) 298-6450.

Louis Jacobson

Copyright 2004 Washington City Paper