Acclaimed as one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s premier painters, Deborah Oropallo has created much of her work in recent years using digital photos and inkjet prints. Her 2015 mixed-media print/painting hybrids continue the exploration of power, gender, and costume begun in Oropallo’s Guise series. The series combines opulent 18th century portraits of men with contemporary images of women whose revealing, cartoonlike uniforms evoke visual archetypes: a pirate, an S&M dominatrix, Santa Claus and the like. The women’s uniforms are campy, sexualized signs drawn from the world of advertising: a series of roles reduced to a collection of simple visual cues. By digitally merging them with 18th century portraits of powerful men, Oropallo scrambles the viewer’s radar. The costumes and details which lend the portraits their extravagance and pomp mingle with the womens’ stylized and suggestive uniforms in a virtual alphabet soup of signs. Oropallo’s fragmented hybrid of these figures invites a consideration of the different kinds of power they suggest, their levels of gravitas and dignity relative to each other, and the extent to which context and gender might inform our readings of the two.
– Nick Stone