Lorena Salcedo-Watson: ‘Morphologies’

Melvile Library Gallery, Stony Brook University, February 9 – 21, 2007

As we know, ‘morphology’ is the study of structures. Salcedo-Watson’s art is no different. The images in this show present views of the internal structure of the human body, not as seen with x-ray or other scientific or medical imaging devices, but as felt, as experienced and as imagined. Spinal columns, rib cages and pelvises play a large role in the imagery, though the structures appear distorted, convulsive, twisted, due to movement, pain, anxiety or ecstasy. The forms presented are intended to be a rethinking of the body. No longer merely a physical form, now an ideal (or idea-l) form, the ideas Salcedo-Watson has about her own body and the body of others as felt, as lived.

Two drawings of the pelvis, ‘Luminous Core’ and ‘Grand Pelvis,’ both of 2007, combine internal structure with external characteristics to present a view of the place of human origin and the site of physical pleasure that is, at turns, sensual and disorienting. As a region, the pelvis holds a special significance and power, a power exploited by Salcedo-Watson to challenge viewer’s perception and certainty. In these images, Salcedo-Watson depicts the pelvis both as the site of reproduction and as a great yawning mouth. The coccyx becomes the roof of the mouth, the spine extends down the throat, and the hipbones form the cheeks and jaw. The conflation of these two regions underscores the sensuality inherent in both regions, a sensuality reflected in Salcedo-Watson’s use of materials, while simultaneously suggesting the hunger and vitality that partially defines the mouth and pelvis. Neither mouths nor pelvic regions look like this, though we recognize the imagery due to its reflection of the ways in which we imagine and experience the body. Additionally, the exact and confident handling of materials reflects the surety, or lack thereof, with which we treat the mouth and the pelvic region in daily life and during romantic encounters.

This conflation of bodily regions is continued and extended in another drawing, ‘Magnolia Bud,’ of 2006. Recognition of plant forms occurs in conjunction with a reading of the image as human reproductive organs, a theme common in flower imagery. This work presents Salcedo-Watson’s material-handling at its finest. Heavy, dark coloring combines with delicate and sensitive textures to create luminous buds shining through a tangled mass of fibers and vines, just as we would find in a magnolia bud or in human reproductive organs. Of all the works in the show, this image is perhaps the most sensuous, suggestive, delicate and exciting, and I returned to it many times during my visit to the gallery. ‘Magnolia Bud’ contains within it the themes at stake in all of the drawings in the show: the split between the certainty of biology and medical technology, and the actual, lived experience of the body.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *