Sculptor, Painter Brings Brazil, West Africa to Cambodia

Genie Florencio Pearson was shopping one day at Phnom Penh’s Russian Market when inspiration struck. A pregnant vendor, her two children near her feet, leaned back in a plastic chair at her market stall and draped her right arm over her head, exhausted but beautiful.

“That was it,” Pearson says. She took a mental image, went home, made a sketch and produced the bronze sculpture “Desire.”

While a casual observer may notice only a mound of bronze with shapes sticking out, closer inspection shows a pregnant woman’s womb, a breast and an arm draped over a head.

“Desire,” along with 20 other sculptures and 16 paintings, will be on display Saturday at Pear­son’s gallery opening. It begins at 5 pm at LeBananier Voyuager, No 37, St 240.

Pearson, 50, has spent the last 10 years developing her own modernistic style of bronze sculpting, though she’s well-trained in other techniques.

Born in Brazil, she did undergraduate work at the University of Sao Paulo, completing a master’s degree of fine arts there as well. But, she says, her art fully matured while living in Dakar, Senegal.

Along the coast of West Africa, she began studying every technique she could, eventually landing a prestigious commission to sculpt the bust of then Senegal president, Leopold Sadar Seghor.

She has since exhibited her works in South America, Africa, Europe, New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, DC.

In Washington, she sold originals for as much as $10,000. Here in Cambodia, though, her pieces sell from $385 to $2,500, mostly for one of two casts of the same piece.

Most of the pieces in the exhibition, which includes bronze and marble sculptures and natural dye paintings on African tree bark, were created in Phnom Penh during the two years she has been here.

And though not all of them were inspired by Cambodia, most of them have been influenced by the country. Saffron, carrots and roses, for example, are crushed and mixed together to produce the color of a monk’s robe, a color Pearson now uses in some of her works.

“I’m really astonished,” said Saiko Cornale, a customer, as she browsed the gallery Thursday afternoon. “The materials are so beautiful.”

For Pearson, it’s a lifestyle and a commitment to her work.

“I’ve never worked for anybody,” she says. “I’ve always worked for my art.”

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