Martha Jimenez: a speech that from the periphery shakes the center


Today, when we have forgotten the regional to think and think with universal approaches, when information occupies a leading position against knowledge, when the limits of good art and the pseudo-art kitsch dissolve with extreme speed and with vulgar unconcern, when we think of diversity and multiculturalism only as cool and fashionable concepts, ee often lose sight of those who, despite the regrets, belong to the local, from within, give away an authentic and revitalizing production of everyday life.

Martha Jimenez belongs to this group of artists from the periphery that, nevertheless, she has demonstrated the artistic quality of her pieces through the subject of popular, recreating it with universal symbols and sifting it with a gender, creole and high social content approach.

Since her few years allowed her to recognize in art a new space, loaded with a wealth enjoyable par excellence, to the same extent, difficult to create, became fully interested in the artistic field. It is then when she is dedicated to give classes in the artistic education, since she is graduated in the National School of Instructors of art (1965) in the manifestations of Painting, Drawing, Sculpture, Ceramics and Engraving. Later she joins the children's creation of Fine Arts, in which she obtains Medal and Gold Diploma in Czechoslovakia (1983-1984). Thus, in the year 1991, we are surprised with a bachelor's degree in Higher Education in Fine Arts. Master in this same specialty, she worked for more than thirty years as a teacher, in addition to developing a creative career with new contentist approaches. She was able to combine both tasks in an enviable way, and now has forty-five years of work.

Our artist has a valuable and extensive production that gives us, sometimes with a mischievous smile and another naive, the defense of the feminine and the rescue of codes already passed, which with her assume a new rethinking of our daily life.

If we were discussing values, it is not only the innumerable awards that can corroborate it, although mentioning some of them remind us of the technical and conceptual value of her works. Thus, UNESCO awards the monumental sculptural project of the Plaza del Carmen in Camaguey (2002) where she appears as head. At the international level, this same organization recognized her in 1997 for "creativity in the field of ceramic crafts", and other awards such as the FIART event of the year 1996, 1998, 1999, in succession, place the artist at the top of our culture. In addition to distinctions by the National Culture and Mirror of Patience, which grants the Government maximum direction for Relevant Works in the Culture of the Province of Camaguey,  she holds the Raul Gomez Garcia medal for 25 years of service. These and many more consolidate her deeply Cuban artistic work.

Martha Jimenez has been painting and sculpting for all these years, but it is the work with pottery that seduces her remarkably, since she admits that the volume and the modeling keep mysteries she always wants to share and unravel. That is why most of her pieces are sculptures.


Well, our artist has marked a way to do very own. Remember how the black theme was worked in Cuban painting and we will come to mind names like Mialhe, Laplante and  Landaluze, among other artists of the nineteenth century, that included the slave in its engravings stamping rural and urban scenes where the personage of town appeared. None like Landaluze, who presents the well-dressed coachman and the provocative mulatto, looking for a picturesqueism away from the historical truth of his time.

Interest in this subject is not exclusive to our island, on an external plane, are artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Derain, that admired by the sculptural pieces of the African soil become collectors of these, supporting then a model removed from all "civilization", which would guide the vanguard of the twentieth century.

In the 1930s, returning to Cuba, we observed in art an awareness of the popular, consisting essentially of the black and the guajiro as indispensable characters. We have dissimilar representations as those of Abela, Gattorno, Carlos Enriquez, Fidelio Ponce and Mariano.

We see in our artist a departure from the customs of Landaluze, because her work is sometimes a social complaint, which manifests in series such as Gossipers (1996-1997), Gluttony (1996) and The fourth part of the human body (2005), where she captures in an ironic way the popular and neighborhood atmosphere; she proposes a pleasant, substantial and, and why not, even provocative dialogue with a healthy smile that fuses the Creole and authentic essence of the Cubans with their cheerful and witty nature. It also distances herself from Abela, Gattorno's ... who put the figures in the form of pose like a postcard typical of that time. Apart from the exoticness of the Negro, she touches earth with a persuasive and sagacious language that feeds on halfbloodness to get a proper and accurate reflection, because already far removed from any African root, the black of Latin America became a basic, constitutive element, (...) -like the Indian- of that Creole that would mark the historical courses of an entire continent, with its aspirations, struggles and rebellions. (...) The black gradually recovered a poetic sense and a artistic sense; seemingly lost by him several centuries ago.

When Martha Jimenez works the black man, does it through the woman, which is not absolute, since man will be present only when he accompanies, sustains or make love the main figure; this aspect is of vital importance, because by incorporating, as main entity, the black and the black woman, she insists on representing -to give voice and with that courage-, to two completely marginalized sectors in today's societies, not only by governments but also by the other.

Two forms of representation of the female uses the creative: a black, voluptuous, mature, with long eyes, the result of the mixture between the Indian and the black, representative of the anti fashion, which privileges a pattern of beauty alien to any current "civilized" culture, and another white, stylized, young, with eyes and chin profiled, and thin neck at the end, reminding us of the ladies of Modigliani. It thus shows two poles of the same sex, where she combines feminist mastery and criteria. The artist pleads for returning the woman to her lofty place as mother, protector, goddess of creation, owner of a rich and changing world.

The vision of women, their importance and prominence in today's society is not a modern fact, but in America dates from the pre-Columbian era, where these ladies occupied a relevant place in their geocultural environment, while on them relapsed responsibilities and privileges that were later abolished by the militarist cultures.

Our creative, from her undulating and challenging forms, raises her voice in favor of gender equality, which confirms not only in her sculptures known all over the world, but in her canvases of an extraordinary workmanship.


Indistinctly, we can realize that Marta Jimenez has worked three major themes throughout her production. In the process of submitting to a more ambitious study of her work, the series will be placed according to the themes; this division is not absolute, it will only be applied to add information, as it is not intended to be exclusive or definitive. It seeks to enrich the theoretical-conceptual field about the artist's work.

The three major themes have been named as: The feminine-erotic-divine, The ironic-satirical and Insularity-migration; - although it is not surprising that the creative incorporates other symbols that emphasize each discourse, based on color and texture, two fundamental qualities when analyzing her pieces.

Within the first major theme are series such as Own Light (1996), Dreaminess (1996), Ascension (1997), Blue Cat (1999-2000) and The Hive (2002). On the latter, in particular, emphasizes, through the treatment of mud, the personification of the hive in a female body, full of pores, which gives its essence as food and support of all its surroundings. Sincere industriousness that stands erect. It is a song to the perseverance and unconditionality of this genre, besides a recognition to the boldness and the delivery, materialized in earthy colors with no shine, looking for the primitive and pure material. With a blue and red hue, she envelops the lights and shadows of her volumetric figures, sometimes half-naked.

As for the series Own Light, the artist bursts the stage with a trumpet overturned in female bodies that function as supports, wings that imitate arms, from the round torso protrude hands, feet and heads, symbolizing the object, endowing it with an exquisite surrealism that is inserted with nails and hair elaborated in ascending sense. In addition to enriching her poetics with elements as Cuban as the candle, explains this, in an original way, showing that each person possesses a light, which in reality, is their essence, their human value; nevertheless, does not even believe our creative that such light is good, but admits the real possibility, individual, as different, from each human being.

As far as the Ascension, Dreaminess and Blue Cat series, a more idyllic sense prevails, where reborns the search for the dream, the eternal hope, of what man always longs for, and only in his dreams obtains, because there is also the impossibility of reaching it.

She summarizes here pieces that dialogue between the erotic and the divine. According to the artist herself, the study of Cuban women, specifically, the housewife, in the 90's of the last century, allowed her to elaborate a pattern of beauty regarding the costumes, footwear, physical and psychological appearances, while, it becomes prototype of this social sector. It is the one that has been using until today, but already with a situational rethinking according to dissimilar well-intentioned speeches. Thus, she exposes fine suspenders that emphasize the flesh of these half-naked women, showing us the hyperbolization of the fact, grotesquely eroticizing the bodies of their mulattoes.

The nude is not so recent in her work, because on other occasions she executed it in an unexpected way, in order to highlight the celestiality of mother, owner of procreation and food; thus, with angelic rings and wings of angels she decorate her models. However, when she requires it, she shows in all its splendor the buttocks and breasts of her creole figures.

The second great theme is also nuanced with this eroticism, which the artist uses in function of the ironic to censor positions for her unfavorable. Therefore, we can not see a topic disconnected from another, but the dynamic interweaving of all of them.

In an eloquent and witty way, she represents in the series Gluttony (1996), Gossipers (1995-1997) and The fourth part of the human body (2005), - suggestive titles that make possible a more elaborate discourse and even contrary to the posture hitherto analyzed of her feminine model (the divine) the burlesque of Cuban everyday life. It is then, in the first series, that she recreates the voluptuous bodies of her women, feeding exaggeratedly. These, decorated with pots, pans, spoons, show the excess of the fact, therefore, the end will only bring the deformation and disease of the human body. This is how the artist reacts to the lack of care taken by the women; the same happens in Gossipers where she attacks against the comments so awarded to women, especially those who do not work.

An anthropological approach prevails in these series, because in addition to the study of a social sector, its characteristic features and shapes are revived with which all the fat ones are decorated; nevertheless, believes the artist in the human essence and is concerned with directing the woman seeking a psychological and physical reflection, first with respect to herself and second, in relation to society and man.

It captures her attention, a whole reality that is still present today, because in The fourth part of the human body, she chooses to reflect the existence of the bag as an indispensable object in the life of the Cuban, and emphasizes in the Cuban, because it is not limited to censoring but to ridiculing "so revered object"; in this way the creative postures that it locates are sometimes derisory, all related to the human body.This will always appear smaller, that is, in subordination to the object, sometimes inside, in others hanging on beautiful legs, sexual symbol; in short, all the eroticism now destined to emphasize a social fact that transcends the decade of the nineties.

(...) so the artist incorporates tradition as contemporary, taking into account that there is a construction of our popular culture not in the sense of folk tradition, but in a sense of living popular culture. (...) the critical attitude; that is, the artist behaves as a social transformer.

In a transformative way, she summons us with all intention, through the satire, to reflect on a stage where the community, today, interacts and identifies itself. Her speech revolves around the defense of a specific issue: women, from which it appears, how the Cuban lady uses time and how she should amend her faults and excesses. She has two indispensable condiments: satire and irony, but she expresses it with a self-interest in Cuban dialogue. She recreates the scenes with elements according to the colonial period characteristic of the rural area, such as: the stool, the tobacco, distinctive attire and shoes; which places her models chronotopically. She promotes to the debate, to the polemic more than to the cold representation of a neighborhood reality, as she analyzes to what extent affects, to a greater or lesser extent, the society and from a micro-project a way of acting. It provides criteria of perception and self-perception through symbols: the harlequin, the buffoon, the wheels and the swings.

As regards the third stage, there are series such as: Ours is ours, I have it inside (2004) and Incantations of the fish (2005-2006). In the same prevails a system of national symbols, by means of which a discourse is prioritized where the migratory phenomenon predominates, in these last decades with more force in the immediate reality, only that the woman is the discursive and protagonist entity. As for these themes, insularity and miscegenation within Cuban art, says the artist Rafael Acosta Leon: (...) is the miscegenation that is underneath, as substratum of all the art realized in the century. (...) On the other hand, the issue of insularity, far from becoming a fatalism, is a reason for enrichment (...) To us have come bursts, (...) of the art that goes beyond the seas, but what the Cuban artists have done over time is to appropriate it, consolidate it, mix it up ...

Starting from this aspect of recasting and mixing, the creative tells us, that only in her trips abroad, was where she realized the need for the elements of our soil, that suffers the Cuban who lives abroad. Many aspects made her think about it, which became an important source in the series Ours isd ours … so the artist renews the treatment of the technique in terms of the use applied to the texture, the same one worked in mud was so curiously manipulated that it managed to imitate the Cuban yagua with which she decorated her pieces: heads, torsos, legs, dressing rooms and even vessels, all magnificently achieved.

She retakes then, national symbols that go back to the bohio, to the royal palm, in short, to the native flora of the island, in the process of strengthening our identity, which in recent times we lose sight of.

As for the series Incantations of the fish, she incorporates other themes; nevertheless, in the first instance, the migratory issue prevails and the feeling that leads to the following questions: What do we leave? Who do we leave? Who are we really? Faced with these and other questions always appears as a reference the woman, who will even be present in other works of a more contemplative character and an exquisite aesthetic quality.

Large and medium canvases, she incorporates in the sample, where she dumps colors she also uses in the mud, seeking to achieve the same textural effects. She tints the scenes live fish and spines that declare the tragedy of the action. Bananas with wheels, women who provoke and kidnap small men, to a new approach to Leda and the swan, an attractive, sensual, mystical world that imposes risks in the social field, sexual and psychological, as well as renewing ancient legends and myths. It is important to emphasize how the Cuban artists have fused with great mastery and with a stamp own movements of vanguard like the expressionism and the surrealism. Martha Jimenez is one of these cases, because her pieces contain both trends in a renewal and Creole way. Thus, she places positions of confrontations worthy of a rethinking in all the orders.


The artist has proven that a committed and sincere art has echoes throughout the world, turning it into a universal language full of meanings, with a social approach and action directed preferentially to the local, even if it has transcended these national frameworks. Thus, she fuses customs with more contemporary aspects, closely linked to the defense of women who do not know what they want or their rights, representing the character of the people and the nation in its broadest aspect. This is why several museums in the world today have her pieces, as well as galleries and cultural establishments and individuals, among them the United States, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, France, Canada, Italy, Greece, Germany, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Cuba.

Opting for the recognition and support of artists like these, conditions us to elevate us to her art, not only to understand it but to feel it. Thinking about her reflections that are most often ours, forces us to investigate, to rethink in an increasingly rich context, but at the same time more demanding values and knowledge of our history, that is, our past, in order to know how to understand our identity and not see it as a glass box but as a dynamic and changing process, which assumes new patterns while maintaining another. Our creative becomes an active subject who in presenting her art to the world puts it in function of the cultural strategies of resistance characteristic of the marginalized and peripheral third world, and that can even access hegemony tending to strongly shake the center.

By: Lic. Leydis Izaguirre Jerez.