Rachel Weiss, To and From Utopia in the New Cuban Art (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), p. 28.
b. 1963, resides in Miami, Florida
Ana Albertina Delgado became known in Cuba in the mid-1980s as a member of art collective Grupo Puré (together with Adriano Buergo, Ermy Taño, and Lázaro Saveedra). Later, her work grew closer to that of other female artists like Marta María Pérez, Consuelo Castañeda and María Magdalena Campos, who began tackling women’s issues from a perspective previously unseen in the isolated island’s context. These artists started pushing aside the usual sugary images of domesticity and idealized maternity to reveal visions of a starker, more shocking nature: a more explicit sexuality, and a questioning of women’s place in society.
From the beginning, Delgado leaned toward an intimate, poetic style, a reverie world of metaphors highlighting her most essential concerns, dreams, and frustrations. Her works abound in references to her inner world from an autobiographical, self-referential standpoint.
Delgado’s first pieces were delicate drawings in pencil or ink, drawn on various types of paper. Her choice of materials was far from arbitrary, dictated by mundane reasons of simple availability. Many of those drawings were made on Kraft paper, others on recycled wrapping paper. Their intricacy evokes the automatic paintings of Surrealism. Populated by characters of her own invention, these pieces reveal an extremely personal iconography, with fictitious elements interspersed with autobiographical. Despite their indubitably personal, distinctive nature, to a certain point these works could be understood as being indebted in their subject matter to artists such as Frida Kahlo. Formally, however, they have very little in common with the Mexican artist’s work; while Kahlo favored a realistic and aggressive painting style, Delgado’s is much subtler and more subjective, with more allusive imagery.
In the early 1990s, Delgado’s works began to change, with a new tendency to reflect concerns or experiences of a sensual nature, from a markedly and explicitly feminine point of view. The fantastic component in these works grew stronger. Delgado cast herself into imaginary worlds or in the place of characters created from these illusions.
An example of this trend is Delgado’s 1992 Coristas (Chorus Girls) series. In a sort of progression, we see chorus girls in scenarios that range from explicitly sexual to idyllic representations of what appears to be the dream of a different life. In the first drawing in the series, Muchacha de rodillas (Girl on Her Knees), the chorus girl is portrayed kneeling, naked, crouched in a vulnerable and clearly sexual position.
The second drawing suggests an exploration of sensuality between two girls. Another drawing represents a very intimate scene, with the protagonist painting her fingernails –one of the symbolic chores of stereotypical femininity par excellence. The last drawing in the series showcases a distressing image: in the foreground, the character is tearing at her own skin while dreaming of an idyllic place, projected on a corner of the composition. This work serves as prelude to others in which Delgado proposes a kind of visual metamorphosis, an imagined transformation in which she abandons her present circumstances, attempting a return to childhood.
In the mid-2000s, Delgado started focusing on the specific correlation between women as sexual beings and the role of motherhood. It was a dichotomy she explored extensively in the rest of the decade, in such works as Escrito en su piel (Written on Her Skin), 2007, which illustrates this duality. Later works delved into the obstacles faced by women in satisfying their domestic and professional needs. Their formal aspects reflect obvious changes, such as the use of a much brighter palette that pairs contrasting colors like blues and oranges.
Of Delgado's entire body of work, her pieces painted on paper are the most seductive. The medium gives her a freedom revealed by her treatment of the human figure. These pieces are distinguished by a unique subtlety, especially in the fine, soft traces that delineate her figures. Her personal style is undoubtedly best expressed in her sensitive treatment of her themes, as well as the exquisite perfection of her lines.
By reflecting her most intimate feelings from a feminine, intimate perspective, Delgado started a distinct trend in Cuban contemporary art, taken up by other artists over the subsequent decades. Artists such as Aimée García and Elsa Mora followed in her footsteps with similarly introspective works, tackling similar themes.