New Pantheon: Yvette Molina

New Pantheon, a solo exhibition by Yvette Molina, introduces a series of vibrant artworks depicting a new community of hybrid deities who are the offspring of gods and goddesses from various world traditions. These new gods, born of the old, are a supernatural, feminist-futurist, gender and species nonconforming group of interventionists here to fix the messes humans have made.


Molina employs the rigorous techniques of religious icon painting, using egg tempera and gold leaf on carved wood panels. Traditional iconography is devotional. It takes significant time and observes strict steps imbued with symbolism, developed for divine connection. Molina, in the role of the iconographer, adheres to the steps of this practice, but that is where the orthodoxy ends. Molina’s narrative incorporates bawdy humor, magical interventions, and non-human leaders as protectors and role models. Her creations are drawn from her Catholic upbringing and Mexican and Indigenous ancestry. These hybrids of human, animal, and vegetable, leap from the sacred icon into the profane media of comic book, collage, and scrap cardboard. Applying the same meticulous process of icon painting and gilding onto discarded materials challenges our ideas of value; transforming waste into precious objects.


In this exhibition, we are introduced to Mother Destroyer of Obstacles, a deity with the head of an elephant who easily smashes borders, a corn-headed goddess, Abuela Giver of Nourishment who provides food for every body, and Coywolf Guardian, who offers kindness, humor, and play in the struggle with fear and grief. Each of these characters have distinct attributes, but share an orientation to care.


For Molina, care manifests as kindness, play, assistance, protection, repair, and even anger as a call to action. Play is highlighted as a form of care in this exhibition, depicted in Molina’s series of skateboarding girls (Freedom Beings 1 and 2 and Teaching a New God Old Tricks) where they exchange acts of care by teaching Coywolf how to skate.


Just as traditional icons carry with them a set of values and practices, Molina’s work is devotional. Each prospective buyer is asked to sign an agreement before purchase of the work. This agreement serves to slow down the transaction and create a new ritual of exchange. Collectors are asked to reflect on the intentions of the icon and to uphold its purpose. This agreement is not binding in a legal sense, it establishes a commitment that changing the world for good is in each of our hands. This agreement requires the buyer to play a role in the artwork itself, transforming them into a key component of the piece.


Mythic figures and religious practices have been a constant means of focusing attention and shifting human perspective. Molina’s pantheon finds their real power as a call to action and insisting that a simple act of care is often enough.


New Pantheon is on view atTrotter&Sholergallery at 168 Suffolk Street through May 27, 2023.