Punishment of beauty

Gender violence has been approached from different disciplines with multiple approaches. Psychologists, sociologists, jurists and others try to capture the essence of the subject to manage their expression, understand it, denounce it and alleviate it in some measure, but the truth is that this type of violence is still very strong in today's society.

Art as a means of expression has not remained indifferent to the subject, among other reasons because many of its exponents are women who have had to fight against this scourge, turned in turn into motivation, remaining as an imperishable cry of discontent and struggle, which does not obey a feminist tendency at all costs but the need to respect the place that women have won in the history of humanity.

Martha Jimenez, an artist who, in her particular way of doing, tackles the reality of Cuban women, transcends borders from painting, sculpture and ceramics to making common women universal who take on their daily life challenges with wisdom, humor and unique grace, of whom one knows possessed of an enormous spiritual wealth. Her work characterizes a voluminous and lightweight woman, who overcomes her traditional role as mother and wife to rise behind her dreams and longings overflowing with sensuality.

In her art, this feminine state of life is accentuated, ignored by a society with achievements but still male chaauvinist, where codes that prevent gender equality as an unquestionable fact of modernity and development survive. From the semantic resizing of the common Martha constructs a discourse where the search for identity, insularity and the feminine come together as valid aesthetic concepts for the necessary process of vindication of the woman, protagonist of a society and of an era that already made her a long time ago.

In the context of interpersonal relationships, gender violence manifests itself as a social aspect that dehumanizes and derives in the reduction of the scale of values of the dissimilar societies. It is a latent sociocultural phenomenon, which not only generates the devaluation of the human being as a social entity, but contributes to the deterioration of human behavior, affecting the malformation of the nascent generations, in the lack of conviction of social equality and to the extent that it increases branches to different sectors and appears masked in more subtle but equally degrading forms.

The concept of my work becomes invariably reflexive around the defense of women in the different roles they develop, within any social sector and from any philanthropic situation. In her I add the most elements, which validate the woman as mother, wife, professional, starting from her first condition: human being and the obligation to be treated as such.

I am against exploitation, prostitution and aggression against women, from the artistic languages I practice, such as painting, sculpture, engraving and ceramics. In these supports it is evident not only the visual reason that I defend, that is the woman in her self-defense, but I insist inescapably to the reflection of the humanity through the codes of the Art.

The different stereotypes that have differentiated the woman from the rest of the other social beings constitute, to a certain extent, the premises by which, from the psychological point of view, aggressive positions have been taken against it. From this conception, my work Punishment of beauty is born, it is evidenced by a sculptural set, as in a violent way, it is intended to make a woman beautiful. The piece describes a girl sitting in a chair, tied at the waist and another girl behind who pulls her hair abruptly, obeying the old axiom that to be beautiful we must suffer. This idea explores dissimilar trivial attitudes that have been adopted taking as a pretext the feminine beauty. At present it is possible to see how many women are groomed against their will, with the idea of achieving some economic benefit or social status, or simply seeking to look beautiful, to please others, subordinating to a second plane the true pretensions.

To pronounce against the violence of gender is a position worthy to make prevail in the rights of the citizens of each territory, however, it is not yet a criterion that has been pragmatically favored in the countries of Latin America and the world. It is the woman who provides life and dedicates herself entirely to another, is the person capable of sacrificing and defending the defenseless child, ready to move through any extreme situation. t is the woman who is willing to love intensely, so it is unacceptable for her to be attacked.

The sculptural series The Hive is another discursive string through which I proclaim myself against gender violence. It is a series composed of pieces where there is always a woman who looks after a hive. I represent her laboriously, which translates as the desire to safeguard and feed her children. The beehive is the proposal in which deepen the essence of women as a competent professional to effectively perform any trade and apt to feel delivery to do it, demonstrating sense of sacrifice and work, with the right to the need for recognition.

One of the ceramics belonging to this series, shows a woman with a part of her breast fragmented, which offers on a tray as the one who offers the sweetest of herself, which is motherhood. This lady, sitting on a chest, has several pieces of her fragmented breasts, alluding to the idea of pleasing and acting kindly towards others. Nevertheless she has a mesh covering its face as a symbol of protection, prevention, care in that hive, related to the vicissitudes of life. Around this concept is the ceramic representing the idea of a woman sitting with a grate protecting her intimate part in the form of an apple, protects her from male bodies trying to access her. In this piece the projection is exclusively against sexual violence. 

On this line of self-defense is the pictorial work Challenge. It is a work that shows nuances that harmonize diametrically with each other and with the idea of beauty of a woman who knows herself beautiful, owner of the universe for a femininity without limits, by extreme delicacy and sensuality, but at the same time with a scissor in her left hand like announcement of defense before the physical or domestic violence, in a posture that is both stylized and challenging.

Belonging to the series Longing of my mother, which has as an essential visual motive the sewing machine, is the piece called Pure from the Seed, which depicts a woman with a sewing machine between her legs. Her face shows exhaustion, excessive work, translated as labor violence. However, wavy and horizontal hair expresses strength, her desire for imminent emancipation and the right to non-exploitation at work.

The Circus is another series where you can appreciate special concepts, aligned to the position that the woman must assume before her challenges and sacrifices. It is a series where she is valued as a social being who fears, but does not shy away, who has adversities, but faces them, who has dreams, but fights for them at the mercy of the risks, and that also suffers, but tries to recover.

In this sense are works such as the canvas Rope loose, The dance of Olympia, the piece of ceramic The Equilibrist and the piece titled No Limit, (charcoal with watercolor) where women are perceived as assuming challenges and risks, with equanimity and courage, women subjected to the sacrifice, but surpassing it with vehemence and demonstrating their intellectual capacity, their physical integrity and the need to be valued and respected for their conditions and abilities.

Gender violence is an issue that has been tackled in various contests of art, science and culture, but it is still not enough. From my creation I expose a problem that continues to affect the equality between men and women, expressing the exalted value that women have, worthy of being recognized despite the physical, psychological and cultural limitations they may have. With my art I pronounce outright against being abused, unjust, dishonest, contemptuous and much less aggressive with women. To say woman is to say maternity, which is in turn pronounce the words love and life.

The Art in Cuba has been projected not as an elitist tendency that only few can enjoy. In order to make it an inclusive phenomenon, policies are drawn up at the governmental level to show the different manifestations and create spaces close to the community that become proactive and transforming elements of the local spirit, allowing the viewer to interact with the artistic proposals, corresponding with the trends of Contemporary Art. In the case of my creation, it is available to the public in a galleristic space reserved by the Office of the Historian of the City of Camaguey in the Plaza del Carmen, where the Sculptural Set of the same name is located, work of my authorship declared Patrimony of the Humanity by UNESCO. It is a free space where you can also receive information about the work, being able to appreciate it nearby and directly. It is my simple contribution to the struggle for equality of women in every way, my proclamation against violence of all kinds exercised over her and the genuine expression of the will of a country in favor of culture and its power of social transformation.

Lecture from Martha Jimenez
LASA 2015