Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Just Paint on a Wall: The Art of Cecilia Paredes

As I've said before, if I wasn't a busy-bee of an art history PhD student, I'd spend more time making my own art. And I think that art might appear directly on bodies. So of course I'm enamored of Peruvian artist Cecilia Paredes's photographic performances right now.

She uses paint and clothing to almost entirely disappear into her lush backdrops, usually O'Keeffe-like florals on repeat. However, she always carefully alerts the viewer to her presence, sometimes with the white of an eye or a cloud of unpainted hair.

Paredes explains her work as part of a quest for belonging. "The theme behind all," she says, "is re-location after displacement and migration and how one has to adjust in order to belong. Tough it is, but it has to be done, without forgetting our origin."

Apart from being visually arresting, her photographs remind me of the work of my favorite artist, Frida Kahlo. I'm not entirely sure why, but I know it goes beyond the obvious love of vibrant color and the recurrent portrait composition. I also wonder if she might even be making a direct reference to Kahlo's "The Little Deer" with her antlered self portrait. There's something very special about her work; despite the fact that she's attempting to recede into her surroundings, the confrontation that results from leaving parts of herself visible is aggressive, even shocking.

My mind also automatically goes to Cindy Sherman, but there's an interesting departure here. Standing in a room full of Sherman's photographs, the shock comes from realizing that everyone in the room is Sherman herself. With Paredes, it comes from suddenly noticing that the fading figure isn't fading anymore; she's staring back at you.

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