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Women Artist News
Article by Cassandra Langer

Because Berenice D’Vorzon’s paintings derive from the same Dionysian impulses that created Igor Stravinsky’s The Rites of Spring and the outrages of the Armory, she catches people off guard. Her recent work is as controversial as those landmarks of modern music and art.

Since the late 1950’s, D’Vorzon’s work has been identified with gestural abstraction’s great traditions. In the 1970’s she began to evolve a more environmental image. Now inspired by America’ primal swamps, her ambitious paintings still evoke the monumental grandeur of the fully staged action painting. She describes these shifting harmonies as dramatic clashes of colors, lights, motions and strokes, in a dazzling play between formal values and emotional intensities.

D’Vorzon’s spectacular canvases have all the orchestral color and rhythmic dissonances of Stravinsky’s heathen musings on the creation myth, but her theme is the true nature and origin of woman’s energy. The comparison is obvious if one remembers Plato’s notion of sex as a sort of universal spiritual energy, an ambiguous force which may be destructive or beneficial.

D’Vorzon leads us through the labyrinth of losing and finding oneself, using the diptych to make this duality immediate. It is Yin and Yang - all the components seen through the creative process. In Night Vision - Day Dream, the slow dotted rhythms dangle from strings of colored impulses, creating a continuous dialog between crisp outlines and unexpected discharges of eerie light. But the cumulative effect is best seen in Swamp Diptych - Lilith, a piece that is particularly relevant as a gesture of female dissent.

When the social phenomenon of feminism is undergoing a passionate re-evaluation, D’Vorzon’s Lilith, the Jewish embodiment of female evil and independence, is described in terms of expansion, a strange and irreducible female autonomy. On the left, shimmering, primordial waters shiver in a cave of pulsating roots, stems, branches, and luxuriant-colored vegetation. On the right, Lilith’s kinship to nature and the spiritual is seen as a curving, scandalously pink, visceral leaf, resembling the Venus of Willendorf. From this reservoir of female sensuality, of a mythic existence beyond ordinary reality, D’Vorzon creates dreams and visions that link past and present.

In an era when so many artists are tied to over-intellectualization, D’Vorzon takes the personal and artistic risks necessary to represent the dark, barbaric, demonic and physical, with paintings that are potent symbols of life itself. For her an artist creatively transfigures elemental sexual energy, the forces - both wicked and angelic - that arise in the timeless and inaccessible unconscious mind. So D’Vorzon’s vision involves not only what is seen, but the act of witnessing.

This art refuses to be stylish; it insists on its own freedom, going to the heart of the matter, a direct attack on the jargon-laden art of 1980’s. The inescapable female presence in these steamy scenes forms an elemental, charged vision that can violently disturb our everyday expectations or assumptions. D’Vorzon is in touch with basic emotions that we tend to deny.