Chilean artist Cecilia Avendaño’s strange and evocative portraits mix photography, painting, and collage to create artificial beings constructed from aspects of real people. Currently on display at Stephen Romano Gallery in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood, her work narrows in on the concept of constructing identity while her process underscores the thematic premise.
After photographing different models, Cecilia merges different parts of their bodies to form one, entirely new and unreal woman. Her series “Blow” and “Pride” are comprised of large format photographs that “are born from a portion of reality” thereby imbuing the works with a surreal sense of what is real, and what is imagined. From there the photographs are printed on canvas, giving them a softer, lifelike quality. This is further emphasized by the installed electrical system behind the works meant to provoke movement and create the illusion of the women breathing.
Accompanying her work are snippets from writers that help establish the tone: for example, in the description of the collection is Ingmar Bergman’s “The Hour of the Wolf” excerpt that reads, “The hour of the Wolf is the hour between night and dawn…when nightmares are most real, when the sleepless are haunted, when ghosts and demons are most powerful.” She has a vested interest in transitional, middle spaces but darker, dreamier ones. She appropriates those sentiments into a collage of various body parts that make a fused new subject, unlike traditional collage that emphasizes the separate parts of the whole. Her humans are landscapes containing different people and their parts. And, they are “halfway between the beautiful and the strange.”
The eerie, dreamlike quality is evident in the posture and facial features she molds. Typically the subjects have large, looming eyes, and a small narrow face which is reflective of mainstream notions of beauty; yet Cecilia leaves them with minor imperfections and greatly exaggerates the archetypal beautiful female face. And the poses recall and dramatize high fashion advertisements that emphasize spindly shapes. The ambiguity of the subjects’ ages and backgrounds is meant to enforce a modern version of identity and beauty and one that fluctuates and shifts between innocence and wickedness.
Cecilia Avendaño Bobbillier uses technical transitions between mediums to symbolically invert notions of feminine beauty while simultaneously elevating them. Her subjects are hidden puzzle pieces of body parts, and the viewer is left assigning a personality to a woman that simply does not exist. Her work challenges the way we see and interpret the face and body by presenting us with a realistic-looking subject that is wholly constructed using people we’ve never seen.
The final products are youthful, haunting, and unforgettable.
To see more of her work, click here.
Stephen Romano Gallery
111 Front Street suite 208 & 202
Brooklyn NY 11201
646 709 4725
WORDS BY Sabeena Khosla