Iman Mekonen, Spectrum Editor
Kofi Mframa, Contributing Writer
Punctured paintings with cutouts of various shapes and sizes are a notable feature in the paintings of Argentinian artist Fernanda Laguna. She accents her work with cotton balls, seashells and other items with emotional connections.
Laguna, who gained prominence as a literary figure in South America, made her U.S. debut on Saturday at the Institute for Contemporary Art in “As Everybody.” The exhibit showcases the last 10 years of Laguna’s work.
“It all started in art school when I decided to be an artist — because I wanted to be a hippie,” Laguna said during a virtual event on Saturday. “I wanted to change, I came from a Catholic background and I wanted to become something else, and I wanted to do it through art.”
In paintings like “Not At All,” Laguna lets her humor and personality take flight through unconventional artistic choices. The artist uses abstract shapes throughout the exhibit, as well as seashells, clothing and frames made of wicker, a common furniture material in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“Things that we think of as high value and low value just get all mixed up together and you sort of lose sight of … traditional views of value,” said Dominic Willsdon, curator and ICA director. “Museums are, in a way, devices for saying that something is more valuable than something else.”
Willsdon, who met Laguna for the first time in 2013, said it’s important to look at how artists are advancing social agendas and dealing with contemporary representation.
On the wall between some paintings, lines from Laguna’s poem, “Sad,” are written in cursive. ICA Lead Preparator Andy Clifford mimicked the cursive print that accompanied some of the paintings.
“My sweet child you come flying in towards the light,” one line reads. “I Fall on this country and I try to see you … often.”
Due to COVID-19, Laguna was unable to visit the ICA to install the exhibit. Artists at the ICA used projections of Laguna’s drawings to add final touches, such as hand-drawn cartoon faces, bows and ribbons.
One room of the exhibit is dedicated to “living memorabilia” of South American grassroots organizations, including Ni Una Menos, a fourth-wave feminist movement that started in Argentina. Laguna has been a founding member of the movement since its formation in 2015 and said its work in sex-based hate crimes and other women’s rights issues is integral to her art.
“As activists, they chose to make a collection of the visual and material culture of the movement,” Willsdon said. “This is a sample of that collection of stuff that they’ve been putting together for a few years to tell the story of this movement.”
The installation is titled “Mareadas en la marea,” which translates to “high on the tide.” The selection was co-curated by Laguna and Cecilia Palmeiro, a Latin American studies and gender theory professor at New York University.
A long banner hangs on one of the walls, containing drawings of women and feminist chants such as “Machismo = Fachismo.” The rest of the room is scattered with posters, paintings of diverse groups of women and informational flyers for visitors.
Laguna said she enjoys using her creativity to explore the intersection between art and activism.
“I think that it is very important,” she said.“I believe that creativity is like moving hidden strings and can really achieve amazing changes or transformations.”
“As Everybody” will be on display at the Institute for Contemporary Art until Jan. 10.