"María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Everything Is Separated by Water
Indianapolis Museum of Art
Through June 3
Archimedes discovered a relationship between an object submerged in water and the amount of water the object displaces — the law of buoyancy. But how do we define one’s abilities to sink or swim when he or she has been displaced from family and homeland? In 34 mixed-media artworks, María Magdalena Campos-Pons shows us not only how to keep a sense of self and culture afloat in a foreign place, but how to swim.
This bold, almost-20-year survey of Campos-Pons’ work begins in 1990, when she left her Cuban homeland to come to the United States, but could not freely return due to the U.S. economic embargo against her nation. Her Yoruban ancestors were also relocated — forced from Africa during the slave trade. Campos-Pons’ heritage informs her richly layered artwork with memories, mementos and familia, political and religious references. Through videos, sculptures, photographs, performance recordings and mixed-media installations, Compos-Pons shares stories. Some are snippets based on childhood memories, like “History of a People Who Were Not Heroes: A Town Portrait,” an intimate room filled with objects representing the artist’s sugar plantation hometown, La Vega. A repetitive recording of the artist singing a Cuban nursery rhyme verse fills the space and at first seems sweet, then grating and, finally, meditative. Other spaces are grand and mature, like the five-screen final gallery. In between are a variety of works, such as an altar-like tribute to domesticity and multiple Polaroid compositions featuring the artist as model. The latter connects to 1970s feminist body art. A question presents itself: How does one avoid identity extinction? The answer: adapt. And, as Campos-Pons shows us, remember, interpret, share and heal.
Organized by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and curated by Lisa Freiman, the exhibition shows that at last Indianapolis has stepped into a place of leadership in the contemporary art world. I think of the important work of the late, Cuban-born artist Ana Mendieta. Time to focus on Campo-Pons: smart, risky, poetic, metaphoric, passionate and attuned to details and sensory experiences. Her exhibition will keep you thinking once you leave and call you to return again — like being drawn to water.
María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Everything Is Separated by Water continues through June 3. For information: www.ima-art.org, 317-923-1331. Exhibit admission is $12, $10 seniors (65 and over), $6 children 7-17 and college students with valid ID.