REFERENCES:Mundo soñado: Joven Plástica Cubana (Madrid: Casa de America, 1996), p. 40.
REFERENCES:Mundo soñado: Joven Plástica Cubana (Madrid: Casa de America, 1996), p. 42. | José Veigas-Zamora, et al., Memoria: Cuban Art of the 20th Century (Los Angeles: California / International Arts Foundation, 2001), p. 175.
b. Matanzas, Cuba, 1972. Resides in Havana.
Aimeé García belongs to a lineage of women artists who, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, began to articulate a distinctive vision of their place in society. This was a trend in Cuban art of the period, emerging, without manifestos, in the work of such artists as Marta María Pérez Bravo, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, and Ana Albertina Delgado. Through highly personal styles and iconographies, these artists introduced the subject of femaleness into the discourse of contemporary Cuban art, offering a perspective that differed widely from the predominant thinking about women at that time. This thematic thread was picked up by younger women artists, García among them.
García's art offers a distinct perspective, using self-portraiture as a recurrent, near-ubiquitous device. In the 1990s, the artist’s own image is an icon that appears again and again in her pieces, always placed in completely decontextualized settings. García practices a sort of “historic revisionism” in which she playfully “disguises” herself in a Renaissance style, and her work reflects a broader effort to recuperate a “traditional” aesthetic paradigm, which was a constant undercurrent in Cuban art during this time. This was not a device used exclusively by García; many women artists of those years turned to self-portraiture with similar intentions.
García uses her own likeness to visually narrate situations related to her condition as a woman and an artist. Unlike other artists, however, García chooses to “live” in a different era. Her protagonist—herself—is transported to a long-gone age, and depicted with romantic touches. Using a hyperrealistic approach, García revives the compositional solutions of Renaissance portraits, from foreground placement of the subject to the characteristic depth of the background landscape receding into the distance. There is a certain histrionic quality to these paintings: the protagonists pose in a studied, carefully chosen, Mannerist fashion, not unlike American artist Cindy Sherman’s staged photographs. They radiate a fragility bordering on sadness, a feeling suggested by (among other strategies) the subject’s gaze being lowered or vaguely focused on distant space, always avoiding the viewer’s eyes.
In the two works shown here, García refers explicitly to two of her own defining attributes as a woman and an artist—a kind of yin/yang intrinsic to her being. Each piece seems to express a part of the dichotomy: Untitled (1994) emphasizes her femininity, whereas Untitled (1995) refers more explicitly to her profession as an artist. She includes objects as elements in each piece, although in these particular cases they are limited to the frames. In Untitled (1994), she uses ribbons, which define her as a woman; in the other, mirrors, which represent her creative vocation. The symbolic content of the objects is very much a device common to Renaissance paintings, where the proverbial palette in a figure’s hand indicated a painter. Untitled (1994), the work that identifies her as a woman, shows her naked, offering herself sensually to the male eye. In Untitled (1995), the one related to her profession, she represents herself fully clothed, lost in thought.
Although she started out as a painter, García later started experimenting with other media: photography, the use of objects as the central focus of works, and “feminine” techniques like embroidering (even on metal). In her work of later years we can also see a more conceptual intention, and in place of her own iconic likeness, she starts using other symbolic elements to represent the “domestic” world of Cuban women.
Despite her visual recreation of historical styles, García’s works transmit a timeless lyricism, not confined to a precise chronological period. Her art is visually pleasing, but it forces us to dig below the surface, in pursuit of a mystery beyond the subject’s pose. The very act of choosing the portrait genre, explored for centuries, offers an implicit challenge with respect to originality and novelty. García achieves full success in both endeavors, securing for her an indisputable place in Cuban art history and displaying a technical virtuosity that is integral to her art.