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Lydia Maria Pfeffer at OCHI Projects


Lydia Maria Pfeffer’s solo show Lily of the Valley dives headfirst into fantasy. In her large-scale paintings, a whimsical cast of characters mingles and struts. Belle of the Fertility Spring Ball, for example, features a hybrid creature with a grinning frog head, a feathering plume of hair, a bumble-bee midsection, and a pair of fuzzy pink rabbit trousers, wears a crown and extends its arms out in a victorious stance. This self-assured ethos is maintained across Pfeffer’s humanoids, ghosts, and mystical creatures. 

While mischievous ghouls, bats, skeletons, snakes, and spiders also enter the narrative, they’re less scary than delightful, often welcomed by joyous muppet creatures or unicorn women that appear alongside them. Pfeffer’s hybrid creature renderings feel decidedly non-male, and within this femme fairyland, love abounds. In several works, the creatures fondle each other playfully, a sensual exploration of interspecies desire. 

The show’s title itself nods to flora with a symbolic femme fatale demeanor — Lily of the Valley is a plant with trumpet-shaped white flowers that exude a sweet scent, but is generally invasive to North America and is also poisonous when ingested. Pfeffer’s mystical world filled with self-assured, playful creatures doesn’t shy away from sweetness, but rather utilizes it to create a powerful, liberated world where anything is possible.

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Photo: Lydia Maria Pfeffer, Mensch, Love and the Insanity of Hope (detail) (2020). Image courtesy of the Artist and OCHI. Photo by Cary Whittier.