Symphonies in Paint

When she was 18 years old, Desy Safán-Gerard conducted an a cappella choir in her native Chile and won a yearlong scholarship to study musical composition in Jerusalem.

Today, the Venice-based artist has long since left music, but not her love of it. Now an abstract painter and psychoanalyst, Safán-Gerard insists the fields are not mutually exclusive, saying that her interests in music, in painting and in psychology are thematically linked.

"Chaos and control in the creative process," is the connection, she said.

In her psychological work, Safán-Gerard has written analyses of famous artists like Lucian Freud, and many of the patients she sees privately are artists as well. Her artistic evolution shows this common thread as well, from her beginning experimentations with dropping paint — "and then I had to work with it" — to her latest abstract works now on display at L.A. Artcore Gallery, which were painted with both her right and left hands.

"I love the interplay of the deft line and the clumsy line. It’s like life and aggression," Safán-Gerard said.

The show, "Music to the Eye" is a collection of about 30 paintings, several of which are visual representations of musical pieces. While many artists paint to music, Safán-Gerard actually paints the music itself.

In her most recent works, she paints from left to right, in lines, the way a composer would put musical notes down on a sheet. With music by Pierre Boulez, Dmitri Shostakovich, William Kraft, Nestor Piazzolla or her nephew Nano’s drum track playing on her CD player, a model, Sara, moves to the music as Safán-Gerard mimics the sounds and motion by putting the paintbrushes to canvas.

And though Safán-Gerard has had people see visions of Jewish symbolism in her abstracts before — her work was featured in a show of Sephardic artists at the Skirball Cultural Center — she prefers to allow her subconscious to work unobstructed in her art.

"I leave my analytic talent in my office," she said.

"Music to the Eye" runs through Dec. 28 at L.A. Artcore at Union Center for the Arts, 120 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles. An opening reception will be held Sunday, Dec. 7. On Sunday, Dec. 14, Safán-Gerard will appear in discussion with composer William Kraft and percussionist/composer David Johnson in "Eyes and Ears: Painting Music, Playing Graphics." For more information, call (213) 617-3274.