above image: Helena Almeida, A casa, 1979, photograph with acrylic paint, 62.5 x 51 cm
I leave for Portugal in three weeks for a 5-week artist residency at the Obras Foundation. http://www.obras-art.org/ I am just beginning my in depth research on Portuguese artist Helena Almeida and starting to figure out how I want to make my own work in relationship to her.
The following description of Helena Almeida’s work and the quote from Almeida herself are from the Drawing Center (in New York) catalogue of Almeida’s exhibit there in 2004 that was curated by Portuguese curator Isabel Carlos. http://issuu.com/drawingcenter/docs/drawingpapers43_almeida The title of the essay by Isabel Carlos is “Beyond the Limits of the Body.”
“ Since the 1970’s, the work of Helena Almeida (b.1934, Lisbon, Portugal) has been realized through a confluence of different artistic disciplines and approaches. In the present exhibition, photography, painting, and drawing are brought together within the unifying scope of self-representation. The artist successively explores her physical self-her face, her hands raised to her mouth, her entire body – in formats that never resort to the theatrical staging or dramatization of an invented persona. Creating neither self-portraits nor characters, Almeida tells us nothing about her actual physical body. Rather, the body that is represented is constantly altered, disfigured by painted shapes that prolong, extend, or even “enter” her.
In refraining from presenting her works as disguises or portraits, Almeida creates what might be called a fictional body. In these representation, there is not identification between seeing and being. They constitute fictions performed upon a body-or rather, not fictions but representations, not in the traditional dramatic or tragic sense of the word, but, rather as in the traditions of painting or drawing.” – Isabel Carlos
“I am not going to hire a model when I’ve got myself in the studio. In addition to that, I ‘m the one who knows what position I want or what attitude I should take on and how the composition needs to be conceived. I create a composition and then place myself in it exactly as I’ve envisioned and with the expression I want. But it’s not me. It’s as if I were another person. What it really is is the search for the other, the other that’s there.” – Helena Almeida an interview in “Artes Et Leiloes,” n.37, Lisbon, February 1996, 10.
Helena Almeida’s extensive and rigorous “body” of works simply compels me. She is still actively working and exhibiting though in her 80’s. In great coincidence there will be a big retrospective of her work at the Serralves Museum in Porto while I am in Portugal so I will have the opportunity to see this major exhibit: http://www.serralves.pt/en/activities/helena-almeida-my-work-is-my-body-my-body-is-my-work/?menu=249
People have asked me how and why I pick these different women artists to research and make my own work in relationship with. There are different reasons for each artist I have selected. Almeida’s body of work is of major significance and is relatively unknown in the US. There are many commonalities in Almeida’s work with my own work as well. I have used myself as the subject in several projects, including “Me and Maya,” “Me and James Bond,” “I’ve been reading Simone de Beauvoir,” among others. I am also drawn to the physicality of her “inhabited drawings” – the scale of these works and the relationship between the “real” space she inhabits and the representation of that space in the photograph is compelling. I am interested in the hybrid of media in drawing, photography, painting, installation and performance. I also love that specific color blue she uses… Her artistic process and the diligence and beauty of her work just plain inspires me.
Below are several images of Helena Almeida’s remarkable body of work spanning the past 40 years. Almeida often works in series with the black and white photographs and sometimes paints the photos with her signature blue paint or pigment. Her prints are now very large and I hope to send you some installation shots as I see the work in Portugal.
Image 3, Study for Inner Improvement, 1977
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