Two iconic worlds meet in Sandra Nitchie’s paintings. At first glance, her images are a gallery of famous faces from popular culture. From Frida Kahlo and Rita Hayworth to Prince, David Bowie and John Lennon, Nitchie shows us these faces in vivid, realistic detail. Working in acrylics and oil paints on canvas, she recreates the allure of celebrity portrait photography, bringing each subject’s unique personality to the foreground while also connecting them to a romanticized, dreamlike sense of the past. Using strong colors that often reflect upon the public image of her subjects, she turns each image into a bold statement on the power of fame.
But there is also a second level of meaning in Nitchie’s paintings, one that aligns them with a culture that is far from the world of celebrities and popular culture. In addition to representing noted people, her images also depict the spirit of La Catrina, a central figure in Mexican culture. La Catrina is a prominent part of the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico, a stylized rendering of a skeleton mask that, in addition to echoing the power of death and memory, serves as a commentary on the follies of those who feel that their social status places them above death’s power. “The tension created between the famous face and the mask may evoke deeper questions about who we really are… what we reveal and what we hide,” she says.
Nitchie discovered La Catrina after moving to Mexico, and her incorporation of it into her work is just one part of how the country’s rich culture, colors and energy have inspired her. By bringing those vibrant elements into contact with a wholly different world of dream and memory, she gives her paintings a distinctive mutli-dimensional appeal.