CONCORD — There’s a rich figurative thread in the history of marginalized artists that declares, “this is who we are. See us.” When the 20th-century art world was besotted with modernist abstraction, sculptor Elizabeth Catlett, painter Aaron Douglas, and others stuck to figuration to tell Black stories. In the 1980s and 1990s, Nan Goldin and Catherine Opie used photography to showcase their queer communities.
Sydnie, a ceramicist, and Haylie, who paints and draws on paper and on clay tiles, make defiantly exuberant figurative works rejoicing in identity and relationship — their own, and those of their LGBTQ/BIPOC community. Some figures grin convivially, but many wear stern expressions, on the lookout for trouble.
“Memory Armor” depicts a young woman with her hair atop her head in two buns. Sydnie crafted the figure and Haylie inscribed the tattoos. A chain inked at her hairline drops down, hinting at a third eye, a channel to wisdom and divinity. With a skull on her shoulder and Pegasus on her chest, a two-headed dragon and a butterfly on her back, she’s at once cautious and expressive.
In collaborative pieces such as “I Love Country Boys” and “Black Bikini,” solid young women stand proud in their swimsuits, tattooed with flowers, nails, and the word “ROTTEN” in ornate script. These figures, presented with the illustrative flare of cartoons, come across as people to be reckoned with. Many of Sydnie’s solo works have that thorny charm. A series of cherubs outfitted with black batwings includes “Blonde Haired Cherub,” who looks ready to fight, and “Bucket Hat Cherub,” wearing a beatific smile but a T-shirt emblazoned with “PROBLEM.”
Working in drawings and paintings, Haylie zooms out from lone figures to the community. Ceramic tiles fit together like puzzle pieces in “Walking Home Down 18th,” in which two couples move jubilantly along a city street, claiming themselves and each other.
The Jimenez sisters say in their statement for “Love You to Death” that their own relationship informs how they build community. These warm and prickly works invite viewers to hang with them, and savor their ferocity, loyalty, and joy.
SYDNIE AND HAYLIE JIMENEZ: LOVE YOU TO DEATH
At Lucy Lacoste Gallery, 25 Main St., Concord, through April 29. 978-369-0278, www.lucylacoste.com