At the Art Museum of the Americas, “Women in All Their Diversity” showcases the creativity of Mexican women
Yet even within this limited context, the selection is vast. Many of the artists were not originally from Mexico, and while some of the emigrants remained true to European styles, others embraced their new land and its culture (or cultures). All the pieces come from the permanent collections of the Art Museum of the Americas (part of the Organization of American States) or the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, and were chosen by Marco Polo Juárez Cruz, holder of a doctorate. candidate at the University of Maryland.
Laville (1923-2018), of British origin, is mainly represented by lithographs of domestic scenes, rendered in soft pastels, and often with a serene sea in the background. Stylized images don’t convey contentment, however. Made after the death of her husband in a plane crash, the engravings express isolation and even despair. In one, a woman is seated in front of a photo of a couple hanging on the wall behind her, held together only by memories.
Palau, whose family fled Spain after dictator Francisco Franco’s takeover, arrived in Tijuana as a child in 1940. She eventually began making modern ritual objects, inspired by indigenous art Amazonian and Mexico’s pre-Columbian past. His “Nualli: Círculo de Sal” is a fiber and paper sculpture six feet high, evoking both a tree and an animal. It is pierced by three arrows and erected on a circular earth marked by a ring of salt. (In many traditions, salt is associated with purification.) “Naulli” means wizard or witch in Nahuatl, an Aztec language, and the Palau installation has incantatory power.
Teresa Olabuenaga, born in Mexico City in 1958, also investigated pre-Hispanic craftsmanship in her country. Her large piece of Amate paper, made from tree bark, has a beautiful range of hues from earthy browns to shimmering golds and minerals.
Equally sensual are the prints and paintings of Olga Dondé (1937-2004), a Mexican who lived in DC in the 1980s. Her renderings of ripe, colorful fruit are both realistic and metaphorical, alluding to the human fertility and to the flesh. An engraving of cactus paddles by Maria E. Figueroa, born in 1950, is as voluptuous in form as Olabuenga’s work, but monochromatic, with a composition focused on stark contrast of black and white.
There is a tropical lushness, but also a residue of European surrealism, in the lithograph by Leonora Carrington (1917-2011), a British-born artist who arrived in Mexico after World War II disrupted her romance with the artist German Max Ernst. “Tuesday” depicts a trio of women with animals as impossible as a striped cat with a lizard-like tail. Helen Escobedo (1934-2010) was born in Mexico, but was clearly exposed to European art. His primary color print, one of the few abstractions in the exhibition, is as geometrically musical as any of Mondrian’s boogie-woogie inspired paintings.
Among the most recent entries are photographs by artists with very different styles: Graciela Iturbide and Daniela Edburg. Iturbide, born in Mexico City in 1942, shoots images of everyday life, such as the black-and-white images in this show of Mexican American women in East Los Angeles. Edburg, a Texas native born in 1975, poses fictional storylines that often incorporate knitted and crocheted objects.
That doesn’t mean scarves and sweaters. In Edburg’s 2010 large-format digital photo, “Cerebro”, a woman appears to have stopped during a journey through a rocky, mountainous landscape. She is sitting on a suitcase, next to a smaller piece of luggage topped with a model of a human brain, knitted in pink and light blue yarn. The storyline is rooted in the landscape while showcasing craftsmanship – specifically, a skill typically associated with women. Visually, “Cerebro” doesn’t have much in common with the other pieces on this show, but it’s a testament to female creativity.
Women in all their diversity