The recondite feminine
To witness the most recent creation of one of the most prolific and talented artists of the last decades in Cuba, we were invited by the Office of the Historian of the City of Camaguey in its own exhibition space. Martha Jimenez has forty-five years of work, she maintains a solid and current creation that takes elements of popular culture by renewing them, increasing them. She bets on good art, does not believe in what is merely hedonistic; is one of the many creators from Camaguey who has a novel work with very Cuban roots. Her work is predictive, revolutionizing esthetic and also formal patterns, despite the fact that many people call it conservative because of her attachment to the old media. Paradoxically, she suffers the disadvantages of belonging to the periphery. Today her work is a consolidated and mature show, she is deserving of a theoretical and critical work that values her production in all its complexity (I do not pretend to satisfy those needs with the present work, but to motivate the theorists and critics to direct their looks in that direction).
Exhibition sui generis is Spells; for the first time the artist forms an exhibition with canvases and sculptures in an indissoluble mixture of eroticism, poetry and mythical allegories, where confessions of political, social and gender order are underpinned. This production prevails for its great aesthetic values ??despite not enjoying a happy curation or a relevant museography.
We are surprised by Martha with her thirteen sculptures and seventeen canvases, the latter of an extraordinary workmanship, where color and form reveal the previous work with the pottery. One and the other discourse without paying attention to the support, the theme welcomes them dialectically and dynamically. Works on the basis of a unique pictorial language, recognizable, typical of the artist's worldview: her round women, with their live and dancing fish, their paper boats stranded on land, the ever-sparkling flame, white wings and a surreal world full of emotion and feeling conspire to enlist the viewer in a magical environment with a high dose of reflection.
The exhibition is made up of works belonging to the Hive series, where Martha works the figure of woman as part of a whole, she is the honeycomb that nourishes and strengthens her descendants to whom she delivers happily; Gossipers, is another of these productions where she manages the customs with some other approach of gender; and Incantations of the Fish, which is the one that summarizes in a more complete way the ideas handled in the work that occupies us; in addition to other individual works that do not move away from the treatment of insularity, migrations and other social issues.
Within the series Incantation of the Fish are included both canvases and ceramics; the first, on the basis of the yellow and greenish ocher, denote a revealing attachment to the earthy material with which she works in her sculptures and, why not? of her influences of Expressionism, movement very followed by the painters at Camaguey of end of the last century until today. Her strokes create sometimes very real textures, provoking in the spectator the sensation of movement: hair that tends to horizontally defying gravity. She thus exploits an expressive element that establishes a certain dichotomy with the treatment of this -note that refers to the hair- by other artists; it is more than disorder, the unforeseen, the surprising, creating in the spectator something of fear and resentment. It is where fish, suns, moons and even naked bodies are housed. Only where it requires it appear the convoluted and thick brushstrokes.
The fish is for the artist the symbol of perpetual motion, even in a state of death because she believes in the different changes of matter, in the constant transformation of energy. Like Pisces, she reveals her fondness for water, which reaches her sense of belonging and her eternal permanence in our island surrounded by sea. As a changing woman, she embraces the moon because of her fickle nature, symbol of fertility, beauty, magic and reverie; this is reflected in her work titled Fourth Waning. Loaded with shadows, defiantly suspends the creole body of her protagonist, that sustains her universe like goddess owns of another aesthetic canon, that also seduces.
The creative shows other values and aesthetic principles that resort to anti-fashion, she refers to american mestizaje and prehistoric figurines, which, with their disproportionate breasts, hips and pubis, become a symbol of fertility, which could lead us to think of the Colombian painter Fernando Botero, but in our artist prevails the intention to emphasize the woman, who is not always the same personage (sometimes a mother, in others stylized women in which feminine delicacy lengthens necks, noses and eyes highlighting youth and freshness). That is why we can not think only of "fat", but in a world richly loaded with chromatisms and very Cuban mystical symbols.
It is worth noting the strength acquired by customs in the work of Martha Jimenez. For her, the centenary presence of the poorly seen evening commentaries of the ladies of the neighborhood, makes ugly and devalues the Cuban woman, reason why she censors it in an ironic form in Celestial Gossipers. Other facts do not go well with the criticism of the artist: promiscuity, represented in pottery, suggests prostitution. And I say it suggests because they are only two legs that carry a bag where three men are housed, each one as "holy" as the others. Suggestion, irony, comedy, appearance and the unreal are several of the many ruses that are used to maintain an enriching dialogue not only with its fellow countrymen but with a more diverse and multiple audience.
Thus, in this way she elevates and recontextualizes the feminine universe, Angel, Venus, owner, support, manipulated, manipulative; holding tightly to threads that support her, helping her to support her home, her man, woman is for Martha unique figure, sensual, intellect and hopes, which translates into flames eternally lighted showing that in the most absolute darkness there will always be a way, a Carmela and hopes. Dim lights that feed on yellow and sepia save the figures of total darkness.
Many elements reveal the magnitude of pride that our creative feels for her land: palms suspended, but firm, or banana leaves that greenish and nuance a complete plane. It is the shoes of the protagonist dissonance in this plane, is the carmine on allusion to female lips, erotic, temptation and irrevocable seduction. Her paintings are a mixture of the Cuban and femininity, of humor with reflection, of scarcity with celestial diversity, of sea with life and death, of expression with unreality. She does not move away from problems that are affecting our country today like migrations, but she approaches them from a more elaborate and suggestive position; presents us, in Obstacle, boats with wheels (many of paper), others with wings, but also takes up everyday subjects of eternal concern, woman-man, woman-hearth, woman-collective, woman-society; then she abstracts herself and the blanket with a veil of heavenly, divine, human, and at the same time is as fertile as the prehistoric Venus.
Obstacle is a mixture of whites with blues creating ochres with exquisite tonal variety that summon us cool and calculating to the moonlight. The work-title relationship is attractive. In the piece the figure -we refer to the boat- appears in the foreground, stranded in the sea, as its title indicates, limited by a chain, attached to the anchor, thus avoiding the intemporous departure of the protagonist. In spite of herself, she looks for the last time back. More than political factors, this piece refers to issues of a universal order, including social and psychological. What do I leave ?, Who do I leave ?, Who am I? What are my roots? These questions are accepted at all latitudes, their own backgrounds in the subject of migration. We can not be satisfied living like a fish out of the water, nor longing for the environment that we alone can not build.
Some works show an element that is significant in her speech: the buffoon who sometimes swings mischievously, sometimes clinging to his hair, which extends its net to fill it with fish that envelop and cover the skin of the protagonist. She highlights the burlesque and unreal character of this figure, a resolute and reserved comedy of the woman that the artist herself embodies.
The wheel, another recurring figure in the artist (Circus, Ascension II, Red Necklace, Carousel, Obstacles, all in acrylic on canvas), denote besides movement and change, advance and transportation, appear placed in the boats, others in fruits that remember trucks, strollers and cars, and always in perfect balance. Moderation that for the artist is not statism, but the dialectical and transforming sequence of natural and biological processes and phenomena.
A canvas is of special significance: Leda and the Swan, which alludes to a Greek myth frequently versed from antiquity, and by the relevant hands of Leonardo da Vinci, Peter Paulus Rubens and other great masters of the history of art. Today it is our artist who recontextualizes and revalues in a highly creative and sensual way this theme. Through her prism, she combines and enriches the scene with a mulatto woman who tackles insistently to the stylized swan, so colossal, that occupies most of the scene. This bird is on the back of a fish, symbol of tragedy, death, evil omen. A middle key distinguishes this work from most, cold tones prevail, reflecting to its regret, something innocent.
Most of this production is done in a low key, almost tends to the Tenebrism, only highlights by means of lights the fragments that she want to emphasize on the rest of the work. The colors are amalgamated in a surprising way; in this case, only three (blue, green, brown) are enough to send us to a completely fantastic and nonexistent place, in the range of ochres reveals a unit without strong contrasts creating different nuances that enhance the foreground.
It is Rapture another cloth and it is one of those works that take back a also classic subject of the history of the art as it is the abduction: The rapture of the Savines of Juan de Bolonia; The abduction of Europe by Paolo Veronese; The abduction of the daughters of Leucipo and The abduction of Proserpine of Peter Paulus Rubens, and The kidnapping of Helena of Giovanni Francesco Romanelli, not to be overlooked The abduction of the mulattoes of Carlos Enriquez, a work of an expressive and unparalleled Cuban invoice. Then it is novel for the creativity of the artist, first of all, the animal that chooses to take the raptor on his body, nothing more amazing than a bird, all colorful, carrying in its beak a cage with the victim of the abduction: a man. This canvas works as the denial of history because it is the only rapture where the victim is a man, reaffirmation and female self-affirmation, a reaction that breaks canons and pre-established paradigms.
Although in isolation, has been made mention of the wing element that appears indiscriminately in men, women, buffoons and imps, and in objects: rudders and ships. Many white, others colorful, but always in action, which, together with the angelic ring that places on the heads of women and men, proposes an ironic appearance of the human race.
Circus is a remarkable piece, the only one that represents the sun. Defiantly, "she" holds it in her hands over her head and dances with it on a stroller holding a paper boat with a fish inserted on the surface of it. Her hair looks like roots that support skeletons of fish. An expectant audience, with distressed faces, and in a despondent waiting, clings strongly to the stage. She appears naked in all its splendor, disproportionate, too risky this act to be real. She is delivered to the public sure of herself.
I think of the will that perseveres, in the boundless bravery that breaks schemas and dogmas, I think of the challenge and the unlimited power to desire with all the senses. This work reminds me of people who go against the majority, who are universe and windstorm, who do not fear that the sun burns them with their rays but that illuminates them eternally. The public, diverse only in appearance, does not trust any change and reveals it in their faded faces, positioned in tedium, and over all things the continuous and repetitive succession of the same action, the same solfa. Like sound that rumbles from within, without harmony, without meaning.
Three pieces coincide in title, the two Ascension, Ascension II and sculpture of the same name. The canvases appear in a middle key, but with a very different poetics. The first one exhibits in the main plane a girl less voluminous than the ones customary to do for the artist. Nestled amidst turbulent and threatening clouds, she returns her grizzled hair that is lost in the background as lightning. The most attractive part of the piece is the action carried by the figure: is her support neck of the swing that rocks to his will, it is the joyful jester with wings object of the game, ironic and sarcastic fun that also summons to his participation. Are we really direct accomplices of foul play or are we just drunk in the eternal rejoicing of the apparent?
The second piece is developed in a maternal context. She, with her arms, extended towards the sky welcomes a boy that appears between the clouds. Then, a symbol of celestial elevation. It is meritorious to emphasize the use of fish and birds, wings and spines, sea and air, two natural elements impossible to master, but of great significance for all Cubans, are inherent in our customs, traditions and ways of life. First of all, by belonging to this sunny island and bathed in the cool breeze of the sea and secondly, because to leave our land there are only two possible ways: sea or air. It is then recurrent in the artist in an elaborate, mature form, to materialize the migratory problem and its deceptions, dangerous journeys, sirens that hypnotize and blind the vulnerable and insecure with eagerness for change.
The sculpture exposes one of its creole and voluptuous women with a fish inserted in its body displaying a cubanized expressionism. The different shades that the clay acquires possess great quality, they are fusing and fading the colors to give place to another, result of the experimentation and the effort that is born of the mastery and the feeling.
She puts an end to this issue in the present exhibition, The Jump, a sculptural installation covered with engobe, enamel and copper oxide. Colors coming out of experimentation and study. The sculptural bodies of Martha represent aesthetic values, above all functions, nurtured by the knowledge, the measured and coherent elaboration of the ideas that surround about her talent, she prefers the dull, dull clay that shows its purity away from all pomp and fatuity.
She disproportionate the form, to create a different beauty pattern, but that is still sensual and beautiful. This is the aesthetic value of her work. The creativity without limits or barriers, the authenticity and originality of the "real marvelous". The harmony and balance of the composition in addition to the symbols privileged by the light denote the skill, the craft -a little forgotten in these times- closely related to a refined content, finely crafted, admirably linked with tradition and topicality. Today the world has realized that we must look in the past to grow in the present. Our artist then believes in the irrevocable power exercised by the exemplary and dignified past in our reality.
With a magic halo -sometimes celestial- she educates and criticizes with the subtlety of a symbol, a stroke, a color. It is a discourse elaborated with moderation and by nature polysemic; provokes a visual pleasure that begins with the earthy color, and that continues through the textures penetrating a race without any other goal, than to insert us through the senses in a Cuban context, deep and revitalizing. In its totality it responds to the needs of satisfaction and knowledge of a reality without globalist or mercantilized attacks. We are witnessing a time of change, yes, transformation of mentalities, and we are urging a language that we all understand, if not with the mind, with the soul. Therefore, we strengthen diversity, which makes us different and unique. Let us make our artists more sincere and faithful to our customs.
By: Lic. Leydis Izaguirre Jerez.