Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Maria Magda Campos-Pons is Making Art Right Now

image: Painting Lesson

With her swinging braids, statuesque physique and exotic Cuban accent, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons is the first person seen in a crowded room. Her artwork is a testament to her magnanimous physical presence and character which is why she is the subject of her own art. All of her artwork reflects and explores her own experiences. It is a process of self-discovery. She is both object and subject of her life in art. Campos-Pons has also navigated her art career onto an international stage. She is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art and many other important art collections around the world. She is currently exhibiting at Columbia College's Glass Curtain Gallery.

Born in Cuba, Campos-Pons has known her whole life that her great grandmother was a Chinese woman who came to work the fields of Cuba. This has been the subject of a number of the pieces in this current exhibition. At the turn-of-the-century many Chinese migrated to Cuba to find work. There is a large photograph on the main wall of exhibition space entitled, Painting Lesson, that shows Magda dressed as a Chinese woman in a red dress. All around her are small paintings made in the Chinese style. A few years ago Magda had an exhibition in China. It struck her as strange that many Cubans had migrated to China to work as unskilled labor while China has experienced it's current economic growth.

"We have come full circle," she said. "The Chinese went to Cuba to work the land and now Cubans are going to China. In the United States many Chinese came to assist the African labor force. Now the Chinese have established an economic force in Africa."

Magda was unable to vote in the last election. While she is a permanent resident, she is not a citizen. On election day, Magda went to her studio and made a series of photographs entitled, Prayer for Obama. Even though she was unable to vote for Obama, she made it her mission to get others out to vote. She arranged car service for many senior citizens who would not have gone to the polls.
image: Prayer for Obama

“I was frustrated that I could not vote,” says Campos-Pons. "I couldn't just sit there."

During the election while others were voting, Campos-Pons photographed herself while praying for the election’s outcome. She dressed in simple black and white and carries a bouquet of flowers. The photograph is a series of seven Polaroid prints. In three of the photos she is holding a small clay model of Obama in her palms.

“This was the first time that I made something this directly political,” she said. “Usually, I try to stay away from overtly political subjects, but I felt that this was my way of participating in his election. Obama makes us want to participate.”

It makes sense that Campos-Pons turned this election into something worthy of her artistic attention. The exhibition at Glass Curtain is entitled, Life Has Not Even Begun." When it does begin, I'm sure that she will find a way to show us how to live. Her exhibition will be up until March 6, 2009.


Luna de Miel said...

Thank you, I'm so glad you liked the show. It's wonderful that you took the time to interview the artist and that she shared these fascinating anecdotes with you! -Neysa

silvers said...

I like Obama also although I am not an Amercian, If I have the change to vote, I will also vote him without hesitate. I believe he will get another way for his country. Silvers