WITH 66 paintings spanning almost50 years, the Rafa Fernández collection,Magia, Pasión y Ensueños (Magic, Passionand Dreams), is a glimpse at the evolutionof one of Costa Rica’s most recognizableand distinguished artists. Presenting worksfrom 1957 to 2004, the exhibit now on displayat the Costa Rican Art Museum is ananthology of Fernández’s accomplishmentsand a celebration of the feminine.Born in San José in 1934, Fernándezattended the Casa del Artista art school inGuadalupe, a suburb northeast of San José,before accepting a scholarship to theSchool of Fine Arts in Nicaragua. There,he studied with Rodrigo Penalba, an influencethat would later be reflected inFernández’s use of tone and color. Alsoinfluencing the artist’s style and expressionwould be time spent in Spain studying atthe Circle of Fine Arts in Madrid. Hisworks have gained international distinctionand have been shown in France, Spain, theUnited States, Colombia, Honduras,Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala.The collection features many appealingaspects, the most obvious of which isFernández’s portrayal of the heroine.Strong, graceful, vibrant women are centralto the artist’s work and form a runningtheme throughout the exhibit.In addition to expressing the strength ofthe feminine, Fernández depicts the centralityof woman in an ethereal, dreamy way.Most of his women are adorned with lavishVictorian-style hats and the occasional birdas a recurring feature. Thus does the artistcapture the essence of soft elegance andleisure. The underlying themes of mystery,sensuality and strength aptly symbolizeMagic, Passion and Dreams.In his exploration of the human figure,Fernández employs a magical realism thatis central to his feminine characters. Wesee throughout the collection a changing inthe use of lines, several years of monochromaticexpression combined with flowing,inexact lines, then back again to theanimated and bold.The artist’s more radical changes inexpression involve the use of structure andcolor expressed with more and moreauthority. With explosions of color, he createsthe archetypal beauty using themes ofdesire and fascination combined with softand hard form. Throughout decades ofFernández women, “la mujer eterna” (theeternal woman) is expressed as all ages andageless: in the grandmother, the infant, thefriends and the beautiful, young, solitarywomen. Rarely do we get to see a collectionthat encompasses so many influences,styles and years.Included in the display is a limited-editionConcha y Toro wine bottle whose labelis a reproduction of one of Fernández’smore popular paintings. This particularpiece, Mujeres, Vino y Ausente (Women,Wine and Absent One), portrays fivewomen sitting around a table, all in trueFernández style, complete with hats, birdsand wine. Another favorite is El Sueño(The Dream), which captures the essenceof Fernández’s style and use of color.In addition to his traditional works, themuseum has on display three ofFernández’s creations or “toys,” whosemovements can be manipulated by theonlooker. These three-deminsional figuresdisplaying characteristic Fernández styleadd a unique interactive element for theviewer – a nice touch that allows us to participatein the artist’s vision.“What we have on display is the best ofthe best of Rafa Fernández,” says MaríaElena Masís, exhibit planner at the museum.She says it took more than a year toacquire the 66-piece collection, whichincludes works from the museum’s owncollection, the artist’s collection and privatecollections.This range of work reflects an artisticexploration from the brilliant to the subtle,and from small format to large format; thecollection is varied yet distinctly Fernández.True to the nature of the artist is theneed to change modes of expression. Thechanges in Fernández’s works over time area tribute to five decades of talent and hisvision of what is beautiful about women.The exhibit can be seen at the CostaRican Art Museum, on the east side of LaSabana Park, through March 27. Themuseum is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10a.m.-4 p.m., with free admission onSundays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. For information,visit www.musarco.go.cr or call 222-7155 or 222-7247.