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July 08, 2014
Sue Zola: “True Romance and Art of the Game” at PEVETO
It’s a dazzling show of nostalgic images executed almost exclusively with glitter. Sue Zola’s paintings are created with thousands of sparkling specs of reflective color. Zola, who is referred to as the “Glitter Diva of Austin,” has been working with glitter since she moved from Connecticut to Texas in 1999. It’s not unusual for artists to use glitter in collage, but it is rare to find an artist who actually paints with glitter. “I have had a thing for glitter since I was in second grade,” Zola said. Her paintings are stylistically complex, and she often uses dozens of colors executed with great attention to detail. Each area of color must be applied and allowed to dry completely before another color can be applied. Zola works in series, and her current show focuses on two—the board game Monopoly and True Romance comics. The Monopoly series includes familiar characters from the Chance and Treasure Chest cards, as well as other symbols from the game presented against a background collage of Monopoly money. The True Romance pieces focus on overwrought women from the romance comic books that first became popular in the 1950s. In Que Sera, Sera, Zola pays homage to Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein and his signature weeping women, their eyes overflowing with tears due to betrayal by handsome, cold-hearted men. Zola’s past subjects have included icons of American culture such as Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash; fictional characters like Frankenstein, Wonder Woman, and Superman; and advertising creations such as Tony the Tiger and the Kool-Aid man. She has even done a Campbell’s tomato soup can like Andy Warhol’s.

Glitter has been used extensively since prehistoric times—mica was used in early cave paintings to give them a shimmering appearance and make them more lifelike. The Egyptians created glittering cosmetics from the iridescent shells of beetles, as well as ground malachite crystals. Native Americans used powdered galena, a form of lead, to make sparkling paint for purposes of adornment. But the nostalgia in Zola’s work is for a more recent era. Her bright, shiny paintings have caught the attention of stars such as Quentin Tarantino (who commissioned a portrait of Bruce Lee), Megan Mullally, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, and filmmaker/artist David Lynch, all of whom collect her work. The combination of clever imagery, seductive surfaces, and expert execution makes Zola’s work both evocative and eloquent.

—DONNA TENNANT

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