Of Flesh and Tone

by Jon-Barrett Ingels

Flaunt Previews Mattea Perrotta’s New Exhibition at MAMA Gallery
Ayahuasca—the ceremonial tea served by shamans along the Peruvian Amazon, is believed to create a spiritual awaking or a rebirth for its users, purging the old modes of being and thought, and opening up the pathways to the true self.

For Venice Beach born artist Mattea Perrotta, the psychedelic brew helped cleanse her of the old master style she was taught at UC Berkeley. “I grew up doing mostly realism and portraits and figure drawing. That was kind of like my ‘style’ for a long time but it wasn’t me.” A life long fan of Agnes Martin, Perrotta longed to break away from the academic, classical, figurative style of art. “[Ayahuasca] helped me reach another dimension of not really worrying about the details so much and looking at the overall picture.”

Perrotta held residencies in Portugal and Italy and most recently Morocco, attracting her to examine the connectivity of woman worldwide. “I wouldn’t call myself a feminist artist,” she told me, “but I’m definitely interested in the mind of a woman living in a man’s world in these countries such as Morocco and the Middle East, juxtaposed with what we’re going through.” This was the inspiration for her show PORTRAIT OF A NUDE WOMAN at MAMA gallery in downtown Los Angeles. “What I’ve realized through my travels is that beneath it all we are all the same but we kind of disguise and mask it through different veils of clothing and make-up and personality, so in my pieces I try to bring out the vulnerability that all women share, kind of like the common denominator. Strip it down, what is left? We are all the same, we’re all connected.”

In her artist statement she writes, “What we choose to reveal or disguise can be a political act. Through our choices of style and color of dress, we are able to exert power. We get to choose who gets to see what and what exactly gets to be seen.” It is reminiscent of the recently covered artist Andrea Mary Marshall, whose work The Feminist Calendar 2016, pairs partially clothed, slightly erotic photos of her­—calling out the Pirelli Calendar—with fully clothed portraits of her in repose, with the concept being that each shot is representative of the female figure as well as female strength, sensuality, sexuality, and confidence.

For her show, Perrotta writes, “No, it is not true that women share the same experiences cross-culturally. Yet, women do seem comparatively conjoined by a prevalence of body insecurities, perhaps stemming from an awareness of being watched. In this way, woman can be linked by the knowledge that fashion can both enhance and suppress those feelings of inadequacy or danger.”

Her time in Morocco allowed her to more intimately experience a culture of females where “the exposure of a wrist or glimpse of an ankle…become as suggestive as the line and curve of a minimalist painting.” The journey also paired Perrotta with a mentor—abstract artist Mohamed Mourabiti. He challenged her to strip away what she was doing. He advised her to “take away all that stuff and get down to the skeleton.” She adds, “I was really trying to take my mind out of what I was comfortable with and it left me with just bare bones.”

Through the urging of her mentor and the purging effects of ayahuasca, Mattea Perrotta was able to peel away all learned and prescribed styles and forms and find herself in the starkness of Agnes Martin, and the abstract of Mohamed Mourabiti. Mixing her own paint she plays with a palate of flesh tones, primaries, and stark black. Her work strips the veils of clothing, and make-up, and personality, and showcases the essence of women—the sacred feminine worshiped for all eternity across all cultural divides.


PORTRAIT OF A NUDE WOMAN is showing at MAMA gallery in downtown Los Angeles from November 14 through December 12.