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US Artist Larissa Bates Explores Her Costa Rican Heritage

Costa Rica Entertainment – This month, after more than a decade in New York, Monya Rowe will close her gallery and move it to St. Augustine, Fla. Originally in Brooklyn, then in Chelsea, and most recently on the Lower East Side, her gallery is one of a handful of independent-minded, tight-budget commercial spaces that function as alternatives to a corporatized art world mainstream.

Larissa Bates artistTo sustain that model, Ms. Rowe has kept both her premises and the art she exhibits small. Her current show of work by Larissa Bates who, along with the painter Angela Dufresne, has been with the gallery from the start, is an example of this.

Ms. Bates has long made autobiography an element in her work. She does so again in a group of exquisitely detailed notebook-size gouaches that refer to her upbringing in patrician New England as the child of a Costa Rican mother, and to the cultural dynamic — not a clash, exactly, but certainly not a synthesis — produced by that combination. Portraits of her suburban family appear in lush tropical settings. Daffodils and monstrous orchids grow side by side, suggesting that one species — but which? — is invasive. In this world, elements of Early American Colonial style and modern American colonialism — one of her grandfathers was vice president of the United Fruit Company in Costa Rica — coexist.

“Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” Paul Gauguin asks in the title of his great 1897 painting of a fantasy Tahiti. The picture is owned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where Ms. Bates lives and works. And she is basically asking the same questions in scaled-down 21st-century terms. As to where she is going? She’ll continue to show with Monya Rowe in the gallery’s new Florida home.

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