Los Angeles native Gena Milanesi’s anachronistic paintings often depict the private, pensive moments of womanhood. In her most recent solo exhibition Payne’s Grey, she highlights female inventors using bold, monochromatic strokes, paying homage to Hedy Lamar, Shirley Jackson, and Elizabeth Magie (among others). “Jackson conducted breakthrough scientific research that enabled others to invent the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, fiber optic cables, and the technology behind caller ID andcall waiting. She is the reason we all know when to not pick up our phones,” the artist jokes. Though her work can be playful –– a young girl kneeling on a bench next to three aristocratic dogs, a woman reading the newspaper in bed with a tray of sweets and coffee, her exposed leg jutting out of tangled white sheets –– there is a undeniable dichotomy of jubilance and darkness. Her collection Neighbors was inspired by her grandmother’s stories about World War II, each subject donning a gas mask; eerily similar to the state we’ve all been in this past year.
During the pandemic, Milanesi’s lexicon for the inner-workings of her mind has been abstract painting. Equal parts chaotic and calming, the lines and rich splashes of color seem to come alive on the canvas, like a portal to a more vibrant and interesting world. Her work oscillates between abstract and figurative, each complimentary of the other with chic, feminine overtones. “Figurative takes a different type of focus where the technicalities of anatomy come into play and you often conceal emotion in this process of creating a character in a story –– much like acting on a stage. Abstract is instinctive in the calculated and spontaneous gestural movements. These movements make the artist the vessel to convey the unspoken. With my mind being in a constant, haphazard state last year, the process in these abstract paintings was such a release and probably my most honest exchange with myself,” she confides. She also did an exercise where she invited her followers to come up with prompts for her drawings, and voraciously created an oeuvre of charcoal and ink etchingson found paper.
No matter what the state of the world is, it seems Gena is always creating, whether it’s painting murals on the walls of coffee shops or quietly churning out work in her downtown studio. Milanesi is taking on 2021 with a fresh perspective, and hopes to have an exhibition in the U.K., where all of her dearly missed family members can attend.