November 27, 2022


Adorn your Feelings

Cecilia Vicuña Sees Venice Through Her Mother’s Eyes

4 min read


An unforgettable artwork at this year’s Venice Biennale captivates visitors very long prior to they action foot in the Giardini or the Arsenale. Gazing out from Venice’s vaporetti, the legendary community drinking water buses that ferry passengers across the greenish lagoon, are the eyes of Cecilia Vicuña’s mother. As readers disembark at the aquatic city’s buoyant docks in opposition to a soundscape of gurgles and splashes and churning motors, they appear on patiently, deep brown wells of gentleness and intensity. A 97-12 months-aged woman stares again. These are her eyes she traveled to Venice to see them, much more than 4 a long time just after her daughter painted them.

“Bendígame Mamita” (“Bless Me, Mommy”) dates from 1977, when Vicuña was living in Bogotá, and it has since then hung in the relative obscurity of her mom Norma Ramírez’s home. Now it is reproduced all over the Biennale, not just on the vaporetti but on posters and signage, and the operate alone is on look at in the Central Pavilion, exactly where the composition can be appreciated in its entirety. “I experienced incredibly significantly when the painting disappeared,” Ramírez admitted in an job interview from Venice, remembering the working day when the canvas remaining her residence. “But seeing it right here, I understand that it could not just be for me. It experienced to be for all people.”

Cecilia Vicuña, “Bendígame Mamita” (1977), oil on canvas, 55 x 47 inches (graphic courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London)

The do the job portrays Ramírez suspended in a celestial expanse, her face bisected by the sinuous curve of a guitar whose round chamber exposes 1 eye. She disencumbers herself of her large-heeled sneakers as her locks stream freely. Hovering over, frieze-like vignettes narrate moments from Ramírez’s lifetime up until eventually her eldest daughter’s departure from Chile on the brink of Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 coup, when Vicuña was forced into exile in London in the painting, the artist drifts absent in a rivulet of blood. Yrs afterwards, the two ended up reunited in Colombia for the 1st time because they parted methods, a scene also memorialized in the piece — in another vignette, they are standing side by aspect, beaming, Vicuña holding a paintbrush.

“My mother arrived and with her presence and her pay a visit to, I recovered a reality that the coup had taken from me: the unstoppable, indestructible joy of the really like between a mom and daughter,” mentioned Vicuña. “She arrived from struggling, death, and horror in Chile, and I from exile and extreme poverty, and still this come upon was such an absolute pleasure, a joy that radiated.”

97-calendar year-old Norma Ramírez in Venice (photograph courtesy Cecilia Vicuña)

In a final episode, illustrated at the major of the canvas, an eight-yr-outdated Vicuña poses with her mother’s arm around her, the two linking arms. It’s based on a photograph Vicuña has always carried with her, of specific importance because it depicts them in a symbiotic embrace, “as if we ended up a solitary device.”

The painting hanging in the Central Pavilion (photo by Marco Cappelletti, courtesy La Biennale di Venezia)

“Then, my mom gets to be a guitar that sings,” Vicuña ongoing. “But the guitar is a prisoner and even in its sorrow, in that jail of the dictatorship, her human body normally takes the variety of a whirlwind of passion and enjoy, and she kicks off her shoes. And she is dance itself.” In spite of her really serious gaze and a drooping flower in her hand, Ramírez — whom Vicuña and her siblings nicknamed la reina del mambo mainly because she “danced like a serpent” — exudes a sense of dynamic movement.

“Bendígame Mamita” is 1 of the handful of will work by Vicuña that survived from this period: Much more than 50 % of the paintings she created in the 1960s and ’70s, most of which she gifted to mates and spouse and children, have been missing or discarded. But two people today held on to them — her mother and her brother Ricardo, both of those of whom joined Vicuña in Venice.

The story of the painting’s passage to Italy was also serendipitous. Cecilia Alemani, curator of the Biennale’s 59th version, experienced questioned participating artists to post works depicting eyes for the exhibition’s graphic identity. Vicuña’s was one of 4 selected, along with items by Belkis Ayón, Felipe Baeza, and Tatsuo Ikeda. She was awarded the Golden Lion for Life time Achievement, the Biennale’s optimum honor, and her study exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, Cecilia Vicuña: Spin Spin Triangulene, opened a thirty day period afterwards. It is, somewhat unbelievably, the Chilean artist and poet’s to start with solo exhibit in a New York museum.

Mother and daughter (image courtesy Cecilia Vicuña)

A tribute to the credo of motherly appreciate, “Bendígame Mamita,” fathomed from the ache of separation and the elation of reunification, is also a cri de cœur in opposition to displacement, 1 of war’s silent reverberations. Tens of countless numbers had been tortured, imprisoned, or killed below Pinochet’s 17-12 months routine many other individuals isolated and exiled.

“That is my portrait,” Vicuña concludes issue-of-factly. “It is a rebel towards the dreadful suffering of oppression.”

“It is a wonderful painting,” mentioned Ramírez. “Made from a wonderful inspiration, built with tenderness and creativeness.”

Vicuña pauses. “Gracias, mamita.


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