Looking at KRISTIN CALABRESE’s Fear of the Poor, 2005, oil on canvas 78″ x 96″

by Rosanna Albertini

a masterpiece of contemporary renaissance that makes me think of Andrea Mantegna traveling in the land of the homeless



They come from the guts of time as if history had never touched them. Reason, progress, humanity, necessity, follow them like ghosts, like clouds incapable of becoming rain. It’s almost Christmas, and they bring us presents, making us present in front of them. They came across time like the Three Wise Men offering precious things to a baby. I never knew where the Wise Men (Magi) were coming from. Now I see they came from the head of time, if we pretend that time wears a body. They burst out from the forehead. Their figures, even more than the objects they offer, are tangible images of a wealthy, powerful existence. I wondered, as a child, what a baby born from a virgin and protected by a stepfather who moves him and the virgin around on the back of a mule could do with gold, silver and myrrh, a substance the ancient used to apply, mixed with wine, on the skin of people in pain at the very edge of their lives, to calm down their disquiet.

The poor painted by Kristin make fun of us, they try to look sillier than they are. Their look really isn’t different from everyone else’s look in Los Angeles. We can scan ourselves in the mirror … we are them. But the difference isn’t only a roof over the head.

We could be grabbed, touched by their fingers. Remember the magic flute? Should we follow them, stepping into the wild of the human forest? We are afraid. Their physical presence make us uncomfortable. In fact we call madness that secret part of us that would like to give up control, grace, good manners, whatever it is, maybe a simple octopus in our guts. The value they bring us for Christmas is their existence: they are here, alive, under the same sky, treading out their shadow on the sidewalks.

Sometimes, they ride the bus. A young woman steps in. She doesn’t need to do anything to expand her presence. The smell of dust and unwashed skin and clothes and devouring rotten vital mysteries hidden under fabric and plastic is so strong that it grabs everyone else’s senses. Another poor person screams ugly words to insult her feminine essence, his voices grows as if he was chanting. The girl gives back to him violently, only with words. She puts her power out. Such a pop opera! As in a theater, the driver sings the major aria reminding “people, she is entitled, she has the right to ride the bus like all of us, she is one of us.” A home on wheels, a small present for every season.

A few days after, multiple answers to my questions about the royal wonderers came from The Economist, Dec. 20, 2014. I transcribe here the conclusion of a thoughtful essay:

Balthazar, Melchior, Gaspar … the comedy and chemistry of three…

For those who feel deprived of the mystical significance of the kings, there is a more profound dimension to the rule of three to ponder. For three encompasses everything: past, present, future; here, there, everywhere; earth, sea and air; positive, negative, neutral; this, that and the other. Through these trinities the kings, who might be Tom, Dick or Harry, wander in search of answers (yes, no, maybe) to mysteries even older than that of Father, Son and Holy Ghost: the birth of light, the dawn of life and the primacy of love.”


Rosanna Albertini about Kristin Calabrese

2014: as Picasso had his blue period, Kristin Calabrese is having her black. History marches away from her paintings. Steadily remain  the physicality of brushes and colors, the tension of the canvas, and an artist who has devoted her life force to painting. Since the frame contains her “magic carpet” – as she calls the white surface – which is also her freedom, Calabrese gives form to reflections of any thing the eyes can reach. An urban landscape, a broom, a shadow on the wall, holes in the ground: things as they exist. Painted, they exist in a space of feelings so strong they seem inevitable. Which is of course not true. Over time, images change in anyone’s mind.

Kristin Calabrese, Lights Out  2014, Oil on Canvas,  96" x 144"

Kristin Calabrese, Lights Out 2014, Oil on Canvas,
96″ x 144″

Not long ago Calabrese wanted her paintings flat, with no transparencies. Today she presents Lights Off, 2014, a painting that shows layers of motion in her mind selected by life over several years: at the top, a ceiling painstakingly executed mirrors the real ceiling of her private room (this artist only paints from life); the bottom is pitch black like a cat fur and ends with silhouettes of viewers looking at … something. In real life the something was a piece of fabric horizontally hung between the sides:  it has become a transparent veil holding small flowers floating in the air, and it’s a perfect illusion of reality, it is only there to mitigate an explosion of light from the void. Viewers? They must be blind. Blackness of not seeing, maybe not able to see the secret stories that art and poetry introduce in our lives.

“Black is death,” Kristin Calabrese says with no hesitation. It grows illusionism in her art, while illusions are absent.  Remember?

The Unicorn has no match or mate. /  The artist has no peer. / Death has no peer.  […]

We shall not get to the bottom: / death is a hole / in which we are all buried / Gentile and Jew. 

The flower dies down and rots away. / But there is a hole in the bottom of the bag. 

It is the imagination which cannot be fathomed. / It is through this hole we escape . . 

So through art alone, male and female, a field of flowers, a tapestry, springs flowers unequaled in loveliness. 

Through this hole at the bottom of the cavern / of death, the imagination escapes intact. 

William Carlos Williams, Paterson 

            Calabrese paints flowers and calls them Seen and Unseen, 2013. Or she paints black the flowers themselves, and in the painting they become Depth of Field, 2013 on a rainbow background. So the Red Ink Drawings, 2014, declaring their independence from the pencil-drawn grid they coexist with on the same canvas, are not abstract at all. They are stories at rest, each unique, so still they don’t breath.

(This is the short version of  “Black Moment,” published in C.O.L.A. 2014, City of Los Angeles, p.21)