The Farber Collection
Facebook Twitter RSS

Marta María Pérez Bravo

About Marta María Pérez Bravo

b. 1959, resides in Mexico

Marta María Pérez’s works make a distinct and original contribution to the history of female representation in Cuban art. In a field historically dominated by the male perspective, Pérez introduces her own body into the discourse through the use of staged photography. Her relationship with the photographic medium began in 1983, when she used it to record ephemeral interventions in natural spaces. In the mid-1980s, her own pregnancy (with twins) led her to create the series Concebir (Conceiving, 1985-1986), and Memorias de nuestro bebé (Memories of Our Baby, 1987). In both pieces, Pérez employed the structure of a photo album, which is widely used in Cuba to record family memories. In the Western artistic tradition, maternity has been expressed through the visual unity of the child and its mother as depicted by the artist (usually male). Pérez instead became both the subject and creator of these images, bringing a distinctive approach to a theme previously addressed in Mary Kelly’s Postpartum Document (1973-79).

While images in the Cuban post-Revolutionary press documented the participation of women in the military and in economic production, and the efficacy of the systems of prenatal and newborn care, Pérez concentrated on the “internal” saga of the female experience. This is the source of her singularity in Cuban art. Photography was her way of “discovering and trapping, through the lens, the invisible mechanisms of religious, mythic, and magical thinking” (Hernández, 2001, 1) as they applied to maternity. The images of her body, distended or crossed by stretch marks, on neutral backgrounds and interacting with such objects as necklaces, knives, dolls, or bricks, reveal concepts and traditions about pregnancy based on popular culture and the Afro-Cuban religions Santería and Palo Monte.

Ya no hay corazón (No More Heart) is part of the series “Cultos Paralelos” (“Parallel Cults”), begun in 1990. Through interaction with ritual objects and the contained and graceful use of her own body, Pérez creates metaphors from various aspects of religious practices and folk beliefs that she knows well and admires. Here, though, we are not witnessing religious art or cultic objects, like ex votos or Flemish altarpieces of the 15th century. By means of the poetic image, Pérez—herself a white, Western artist—bridges the conventions of contemporary art and the spiritual strata of her own life context: Cuban culture in all its vitality and richness.

—Abelardo Mena Chicuri