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House of Strange Women

Paintings by Monica Lundy at Toomey Tourell

House of Strange Women

There’s never any substitute for seeing a work of art in person. Even in the best online and print reproductions textures become flattened, colors can be skewed, and any sense of scale is lost. This is why galleries will always play a critical role in our art culture. Collectors know that you need to get in front of a work of art and experience it one-on-one. Monica Lundy’s “House of Strange Women” on exhibit at Toomey Tourell through November 2, is a perfect case in point. Seen out of context, our brains reduce the mug-shot portraits to mug-shot size. And that’s why you need to need to pay a visit to 49 Geary Street and see these amazing portraits in person.

House of Strange Women

Based on images taken from actual SFPD mug shots, the paintings depict people arrested for prostitution in the early 20th century. Artist Monica Lundy chooses not to present the original photos with the exhibit. “They are paintings, in the end” she explains. What comes through loud and clear is the intense emotion, giving us the opportunity to enter into a quiet, if contentious, dialog with each of the subjects.

Cold indifference, hateful defiance, scornful derision, uncertain fear, it’s all present to some degree in these faces. You stand before them and they look right through you — the largest are almost seven feet tall. Arrested for prostitution; was it their first offense? Is this a view of someone who has hit rock-bottom, or just another day in the life? You can almost see the arresting officers reflected in these faces. When the confrontation becomes too intense, move in close; like boxers going into a clinch, you can take a moment’s rest. Now you see the gritty reality: chunks of charcoal, flakes of mica, washes of coffee and gouache, all suspended in acrylic gel across the battered surface of thick Fabriano paper. The method becomes apparent, and you realize just how much passion and effort went into these creations. Back away and the eyes lock on you again, leaving you once again standing in your underwear. It’s an experience not to be missed.

House of Strange Women

Monica Lundy and “0-3640”

“House of Strange Women” will be on exhibit through November 2nd at Toomey Tourell, 49 Geary Street Suite 417.