María Magdalena Campos-PonsSea and Self03.09. - 13.12.2019
Rutgers Center for Women in the Arts and Humanities, New Jersey
María Magdalena Campos-Pons, *1959 in Matanzas, Cuba,
lives and works in Nashville, Tennessee
Sea and Self presents artworks produced by María Magdalena Campos-Pons (b. 1959, Matanzas, Cuba) from the late 1990s through the present which meditate on the sea, a constant theme in her work. The sea looms large in the Caribbean imaginary. Derek Walcott’s poem “The Sea Is History” (1977)—which is referenced in the title of an important recent exhibition which features Campos-Pons’ work—explains that for the descendants of African slaves brought to the Caribbean, the sea was the keeper of memory. Campos-Pons draws on this rich tradition in works such as „She Always Knew of the Space In-Between“ (2019) which features drawings of the silhouettes of two African sculptures, but she also complicates it by making reference to the female gender, here and elsewhere. Works such as „Nesting IV“ (2000), a panel of four large-scale Polaroids, position the artist as divided in half by the sea but remaining connected through locks of hair that unite the four parts of the composition.
María Magdalena Campos-Pons’ work on the sea makes important contributions to art history, Caribbean Studies, and the environmental humanities. By repeatedly underscoring the ocean and thinking about it through cycles, she resists categories organized around national narratives that seek to place art in a linear continuum. Not only is the sea a site of loss and memory, a point Caribbean thinkers have often made, but it is also a mother and giver that is under threat. This exhibition will highlight how the artist intersects with emerging fields such as critical ocean studies and the blue humanities, celebrating her pioneering work and unique vision.