The Artistry of Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez
Written by Amelia Montes
Imagine sitting among a group of people at a long, beautifully decorated table, set for a sumptuous meal, surrounded by gorgeous art. The artist is present, the guest of honor. She has just given a mini-lecture on the themes and craft of her work, and now, the dinner conversation continues to explore the topics she has laid out. Such a setting actually happened this past Friday, October 26th, at the Weinberger Fine Art's Drawing Room in Kansas City, Missouri. The theme of the evening was the title of Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez's latest art works: Cornucopia.
Kim Weinberger, owner of the Weinberger Fine Art's Drawing Room as well as the Weinberger Art Gallery around the corner from the Drawing Room, is responsible for such evenings. Weinberger believes that it is important to have more intimate settings with art collectors and artists. In an article by Anne Kniggendorf, Weinberger says, "There are still the niceties of how you welcome people into your space and how you have a conversation, and how you sit down with a glass of wine or a cup of tea, or create a dinner in your space and have the artist and the patron and the curator all sitting there and engaging." (full article)
On this evening, there were 60 guests who had the privilege of getting to know Friedemann-Sánchez, and to understand her work in a way that would not have happened without her mini-lecture and the conversations that ensued. At a time when the sound bite dominates over more nuanced and complex discussions, providing a space and the time to delve into the various aspects of an artist's work is refreshing and so necessary, even activist, in order to challenge our present moment in history.
Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. She came to the United States to study art at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Graduate work followed at New York University. Since then, her work has been shown at museums and galleries in Europe, Latin America, as well as the United States. Her work consistently reflects an individual seeking to make meaning from the intersections of various cultures. There is, her Latin American culture already so complex with its various histories of indigeneity and colonization, combined with the many historical, racial, and cultural events in the U.S. Friedemann-Sánchez works to bring them altogether within her art. Here is an excerpt of Friedemann-Sánchez's lecture:
Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez: My work combines the Latin American, Asian, African, and Indigenous cross-cultural connections, and that is at the crux of what interests me, of who I am, of my own DNA, in everything that makes my world, OUR worlds, because we are all from these big continents. These flowers: they come from a pre-Columbian technique called "Mopa Mopa" and "Mopa Mopa" was in existence before the arrival of Columbus and is still practiced because the indigenous groups have survived and are still there. (Link to a further explanation of Mopa Mopa technique) The natives took the flowers and the seeds from these flowers and would boil them. Then they would stretch the material and place it over objects. You see them in Peruvian and Colombian objects that date some 800 to 1,000 years. When the Spanish arrived, they were wowed by the art. They thought it looked like the Chinese Lacquer that they loved and had brought to the courts in Europe which was very expensive and difficult to get. So they imported some of these objects and asked artists, "can you do this?" What happened, then, was a hybrid, a syncretism of all of these cultural forms. And I'm interested in that. I'm interested in reaching into that history and using some of our contemporary themes that we live with in our every day existence. So what I do is I look at these historical images and I go to the studio and I paint them.
Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez: I'm not using a resin but I'm using a collage just like the Mopa Mopa technique, just like how the work was done 800 to 1,000 years ago, and I paint each individual one. Each one is separate. I have a huge stack. I'm always looking at various books regarding the influence of Asia and the Americas in the 1600s, in the 1700s. I find it, I photograph it. If I can't find the object, I'll photograph the object from the book, or a picture in an art book, a history book, so each piece is carefully researched. It is not invented. I do not say, "Oh, I like this flower and I'm going to paint this flower." Each one has a historical record that dates back hundreds of years so some of them, for instance, have a strong Asian history. The black background, of course, makes you think of the Chinese Lacquer, but it is also invoking the Spanish baroque painters, as well as the Indigenous artists. I'm invoking the Indigenous and the Spanish, the African, and the Asian. I'm also including drones and the figures who are threatening our environment, the diversity of our peoples, our cultures-- our present day. So I paint all of this in the studio-- with ink. I paint them, and then I cut them, making these large images of beauty.
From far away, this painting looks idyllic: the flowers colorful and abundant, the birds flying. But close up, one can see a different story taking place. Tiny figures are threatening the flowers and wild life. Note, however, how the figures are smaller, the foliage, massive and powerful.
In this detail, you see a drone flying in to attack. The menacing aspect to Friedemann-Sánchez's work shatters any kind of romanticism that may be attached to it. Her paintings, then, reveal themes of resistance regarding war, the environment, the patriarchy. She takes all of these "found objects" from history to then speak to the viewer about where we find ourselves in our moment in history.
In addition to the collages of flowers, Friedemann-Sánchez is also interested in the "shameful" legacy of "The Castas." Spanish colonizers created a system of classifying mixed race individuals which then dictated an individuals position, the amount of privilege they could have. Friedemann- Sánchez plays with this system. The word "casta" translates to "breed" or "lineage." (Link to further explanations about the "Casta" system.)
Friedemann-Sánchez's models for this project were all Latinas. She imbues their forms with historical flowers while placing an indigenous mask as the face adorned with a Spanish "peineta" atop each head. The "peineta" is a traditional Spanish comb. Here is a hybrid once again of the colonizer and the indigenous. Also noted are the models movement, how the viewer sees the body. It seems to be moving due to the lighter outlines. There is a "shadow" form behind the more prominent one: a reminder that, once again, there is more to what is on the surface. The form is also androgynous and therein brings yet another aspect to Friedemann-Sánchez's feminist themes of the intersections among and between gender/sexual identities. Within certain indigenous communities in Latin America, the androgynous individual was often considered holy and/or gifted.
Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez's work is what feminist writer and theorist, Gloria Anzaldúa describes as "work that matters" because it is socially, politically, and universally reflective. It contains various movements that take the viewer to diverse historical, and cultural moments ultimately returning to a more complex recognition of hybridity.
You can view Nancy Friedemann- Sánchez's work at Weinberger Art Gallery in Kansas City, Missouri. You can also contact Fiendish Plots (link here) to inquire about other galleries where Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez's work is on display. Gracias, La Bloga readers! Abrazos to you all!
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