Cecilia Paredes is a multi-media artist with Performance basic to her projects.
She is the subject not only of her performance works, but of her photography and objects – even if the sculptural installations appear as abstract concepts, they are still very much based on her own reality and on how she perceives the world around her, the environment and its many materials.
Her work is personal yet transcends into universal themes, especially those related to the power of Nature and the Feminine. She is often not recognizable, disguised amidst natural materials, within the complexity of layers of fabric, or merely described as something else entirely, totally transformed and documented in photographs.
Her deeply felt relationship to nature, certainly inspired by a childhood in her native Peru, a country especially rich in mythology and geological variations that range from ocean to desert to snow-capped mountains and verdant valleys, is evident in all of her works.
One cannot help but be astonished by nature in Peru and by the interrelationship of all life, as revered by its early civilizations and still profound.
Paredes combines the same themes found in nature – origins, interaction, transformation, and her femininity – to acquire multiple identities through a blend of sculptural recreations and photography.
Her body is used as a blank canvas to be transformed through precise posing and preparation into a new image that reveals that she is there, but only after careful observation. A series of large Lambda prints at first appear as a selection of wallpapers with floral designs or beautiful fabrics, ranging from rich damask to proper chintz. She is completely hidden, camouflaged within their patterns. She has become part of an interior – a room, a wall, a sofa or drapery – lost and insignificant.
This may be a comment on current socio-cultural issues of migration, belonging, “the other,” and adjustment. Does she wish to relate to disenfranchised immigrants or to those totally absorbed and thus of lost identity?
While these are certainly pertinent issues for all Latin Americans (Paredes was born in Peru and now lives and works between Costa Rica and the United States), and others in the world as well, the photographs do not suffer when read as images pertaining to art, without an agenda or accompanying discourse. Her body, which she has used in many other works over the years as an object of ritual, is now a space for her to expand ideas about memory through referencing fabrics and patterns, among other things, at once familiar and obscure. Furthermore, beyond such referencing, the images are provocative for their painstaking attention to detail as she becomes camouflaged within the designs themselves, and for the associations made through the fabrics/wallpapers and her body. In other words, they can stand alone.
In Art Nouveau, she has disappeared within the tendrils of a dark damask fabric, only the back of her head is visible as we try to distinguish the cloth from the painted body that slowly becomes evident. This is one of the most elegant of images, carefully composed and painstakingly painted – as is her body. She also becomes the covering for Bed of Roses, which totally obscures the body within its gentle folds, again with only the back of the head evident. It is especially difficult in this work to see where the body begins and ends amidst the drape of the fabric. For Nocturne, she stares out at the viewer with cat eyes that pierce the dark fabric patterns that have wrapped around her body onto her face. This image goes beyond any fanciful trickery to become confrontational and mysterious. All the fabrics speak to a comfortable domesticity – do they also speak to women lost amidst household obligations, not free to pursue their own identity? Each image will provoke private reveries for the viewer.
There are other works in this exhibition that reveal Paredes’ special ability to become one with her subject. Pleated wallpaper in a playful pattern that is reminiscent of Paul Klee or Mondrian becomes a skirt lost amidst the jumble of signs and designs in Tutti Frutti that is playful and witty. History is a transprint for a light box installation that transforms the extraordinary cut
stones of Inca architecture into a surface for her body – lost among the stonework. A reference to her own history as a Peruvian, and that of the lost histories of the amazing Incas, the image is as complex as the architectural constructions that inspired it.
Paredes, with the aid of assistants, must spend hours composing such scenes and arranging the technical aspects of the body painting in preparation for the photograph. “Fugitive Dreams” is about memories that emerge from the combinations of materials, photographs, body art, and the cross-references they present. It is also about a personal artistic vision that allows Paredes to interpret herself amidst cultural references and become something else.
— Text by Carol Damian