The influence of Afro-Carribean and Latin American culture permeates CANTAR DE CIEGOS/SONG OF THE BLIND: Esperanza Cortés’ solo show at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts at Appalachian State University. On view through February 6, 2021, this meticulously curated solo show brings Cortés’ work to a new audience through a presentation of the artist’s installation and sculpture works. The spirit of Frantz Fanon and the critical lens he cast onto the fraught legacy of colonialism across the Americas seeps through the framework Cortés creates in her installations and sculptures, latent in the textures, materials and compositions on view at this solo exhibition.
The artist reflects on the works on view in her own words, noting, “My work is informed by the extraordinary hybridization of our Americas…its title speaks of the seizures of lands, the enslavement of people and pillaging of precious natural resources which created the massive wealth of the European Nations and the United States. 90% of Indigenous people in the Americas were decimated by Europeans, from a combined impact of massacres, disease, and overwork. Through this genocide there was a loss of cultures, languages, knowledge, and the rewriting of histories. The history we consumed afterwards in the Americas was written by people of European lineage. For that reason we are unable to recognize the history and accomplishments of people of Indigenous and African descent without prejudicial rhetoric. Which leads us back to this moment in time.” Throughout the exhibition, the artist refers to her own Colombian heritage and the rituals, folk traditions and performing arts that she has encountered and embraced in her own personal legacy. Trained as an Afro-Latin dancer, the artist mines the traversal of sacred space and incorporates this rhythmic and three-dimensional approach in her artistic practice.
Cortés notes, “My installations which are organic and improvisational constructions are infused with hope and renewal.” Her works bring the figurative into dialogue with the abstract, bringing out motifs that reference folk iconography from Colombia and pay homage to her roots. With two grandmothers who served as community healers, or Curanderas, in her native land, the artist reflects on the impact of community on individual and the ability of transcultural transcendence to provide a new perspective on what brings out the shared commonality across communities while acknowledging the hierarchical oppression that colonialism brought to the Americas.
In her work, the artist pays homage to the Afro-Carribean and Indigenous histories that have guided her, giving space to the plants, materials and patterns that various cultural influences have guided her and informed her artistic practice. The artist honors and elevates women of these communities as the vital pillars who have worked to hold together families, traditions and enduring craftsmanship. Her loving appreciation for these vital histories and the legends of women who have made their mark in Afro-Carribean and Latin American history is palpable. The balance of aspects of the figurative as combined with organically derived materials such as glass and metal reference the land itself: the constant factor that continues through generations and roots communities to their location and histories.
CANTAR DE CIEGOS/SONG OF THE BLIND, a solo show of works by Esperanza Cortés, is on view at the Turchin Center’s Mayer gallery through the first week of February 2021. Contact the gallery for a video and/or virtual tour of the exhibition: firstname.lastname@example.org .