Cecilia Vicuña Sees Venice Through Her Mother’s Eyes


An unforgettable art work at this 12 months’s Venice Biennale captivates guests lengthy ahead of they step foot within the Giardini or the Arsenale. Staring at out from Venice’s vaporetti, the long-lasting public water buses that ferry passengers around the greenish lagoon, are the eyes of Cecilia Vicuña’s mom. As guests disembark on the aquatic town’s buoyant docks in opposition to a soundscape of gurgles and splashes and churning motors, they give the impression of being on patiently, deep brown wells of gentleness and depth. A 97-year-old girl stares again. Those are her eyes; she traveled to Venice to peer them, greater than 4 many years after her daughter painted them.

“Bendígame Mamita” (“Bless Me, Mommy”) dates from 1977, when Vicuña was once residing in Bogotá, and it has since then hung within the relative obscurity of her mom Norma Ramírez’s area. Now it's reproduced all over the Biennale, now not simply at the vaporetti however on posters and signage, and the paintings itself is on view within the Central Pavilion, the place the composition can also be preferred in its entirety. “I suffered very a lot when the portray disappeared,” Ramírez admitted in an interview from Venice, remembering the day when the canvas left her house. “However seeing it right here, I needless to say it would now not simply be for me. It needed to be for everybody.”

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

The paintings portrays Ramírez suspended in a celestial expanse, her face bisected by means of the sinuous curve of a guitar whose round chamber exposes one eye. She disencumbers herself of her high-heeled footwear as her locks drift freely. Soaring above, frieze-like vignettes narrate moments from Ramírez’s lifestyles up till her eldest daughter’s departure from Chile getting ready to Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 coup, when Vicuña was once compelled into exile in London; within the portray, the artist drifts away in a rivulet of blood. Years later, the 2 have been reunited in Colombia for the primary time since they parted tactics, a scene additionally memorialized within the piece — in every other vignette, they're status aspect by means of aspect, beaming, Vicuña retaining a paintbrush.

“My mother arrived and along with her presence and her talk over with, I recovered a truth that the coup had taken from me: the unstoppable, indestructible happiness of the affection between a mom and daughter,” stated Vicuña. “She got here from struggling, loss of life, and horror in Chile, and I from exile and excessive poverty, and but this come upon was once such an absolute pleasure, a pleasure that radiated.”

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

In a last episode, illustrated on the best of the canvas, an eight-year-old Vicuña poses along with her mom’s arm round her, the 2 linking fingers. It’s in line with {a photograph} Vicuña has all the time carried along with her, of particular importance as it depicts them in a symbiotic embody, “as though we have been a unmarried unit.”

The portray placing within the Central Pavilion (picture by means of Marco Cappelletti, courtesy L. a. Biennale di Venezia)

“Then, my mother turns into a guitar that sings,” Vicuña persisted. “However the guitar is a prisoner or even in its sorrow, in that jail of the dictatorship, her frame takes the type of a whirlwind of pastime and love, and he or she kicks off her footwear. And he or she is dance itself.” Regardless of her critical gaze and a drooping flower in her hand, Ramírez — whom Vicuña and her siblings nicknamed l. a. reina del mambo as a result of she “danced like a serpent” — exudes a way of dynamic motion.

“Bendígame Mamita” is likely one of the few works by means of Vicuña that survived from this era: Greater than part of the art work she made within the Nineteen Sixties and ’70s, maximum of which she proficient to family and friends, have been misplaced or discarded. However two other folks held directly to them — her mom and her brother Ricardo, either one of whom joined Vicuña in Venice.

The tale of the portray’s passage to Italy was once additionally serendipitous. Cecilia Alemani, curator of the Biennale’s 59th version, had requested taking part artists to post works depicting eyes for the exhibition’s graphic identification. Vicuña’s was once one among 4 decided on, together with items by means of Belkis Ayón, Felipe Baeza, and Tatsuo Ikeda. She was once awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Success, the Biennale’s best honor, and her survey exhibition on the Guggenheim Museum, Cecilia Vicuña: Spin Spin Triangulene, opened a month later. It is, reasonably unbelievably, the Chilean artist and poet’s first solo display in a New York museum.

Mom and daughter (picture courtesy Cecilia Vicuña)

A tribute to the credo of motherly love, “Bendígame Mamita,” fathomed from the ache of separation and the elation of reunification, may be a cri de cœur in opposition to displacement, one among struggle’s silent reverberations. Tens of 1000's have been tortured, imprisoned, or killed below Pinochet’s 17-year regime; numerous others remoted and exiled.

“This is my portrait,” Vicuña concludes matter-of-factly. “This is a insurrection in opposition to the dreadful struggling of oppression.”

“This is a superb portray,” stated Ramírez. “Produced from a wonderful inspiration, made with tenderness and creativity.”

Vicuña pauses. “Gracias, mamita.