I always return. Collographs by Belkis Ayón

November 15, 2000
Havana Gallery, Havana, Cuba
Pieces
The Supper, Resurrection, Mokongo, The Family, The Consecration I, The Consecration II, The Consecration III, Let me out!!, Intolerance, Harassment, One must be patient , My Vernicle or the wounded sling, My Vernicle or if I do not forget you, My Vernicle or if all I know is that I love you, My Vernicle or your love condemns me, Something always escapes us or the inevitable

LABYRINTH WIZ

Her wounds came from the
same source as her power

ADRIENNE RICH 

To Belkis Ayón

We believed you to be
Stone of perpetual edge
Defier of unconquered legends
And yielded to your laughter’s radiance, 
To the gravity of your image. 


Labyrinth wiz your hands devouring, 
Persephone without temples or diaries, 
You left us only crumbs from your crevices 
And the sob of a fleeting cortege. 

We believed you to be
magnificent habitation of the high word
and surrendered to the towers
that flagged your iron silhouette 
not listening to the churning of your waves, 
blind to the frailty of your shadow, 
and now, trapped in spasm and impotence. 

We wanted you as the owner
of an unfathomable magic, 
Of forges and blazes, 
Heedless to your bellows 
In the deep unspoken region. 

A single blow exploded in pain, 
charged with anguish, erasing scars 
And left silence and pain 
to those still waiting.


Hilda María Rodríguez
September 1999.

COMING BACK TO THE SENSES

Once before, naively, I thought I had penetrated the reserved universe of Belkis Ayón; I imagined that I could add to my curriculum the authorial revelation, the unpublished data that she did not know how to draw very well, and that her face and her body had served always as a pattern for developing her images.
When Belkis made such unusual confession, which I made public in La Gaceta de Cuba, I was seduced by the gesture of deference that such confession entailed; but I also thought that it was an attitude derived from a certain lack of inhibition, a certain presumptuousness, from someone who was not afraid of disclosing her imperfections because she had already penetrated the sacrosanct site of legitimacy. However, I was convinced in those days that her highest achievement was being able to compensate for her lack of ability in making a precise sketch, a minute tracing, with the practice of an impeccable, polished and strict collographic procedure in each phase of the particular method and also, that the impact of the composition was based fundamentally in a series of value and color effects. To all of this I had to add, the clever concept of having chosen well within the Cuban cultural traditions a legend seldom dealt with in plastic arts, in whose narrative core women experienced the most deplorable of all principles: that of absolute exclusion.

When I thought I had penetrated the confidential space of Belkis Ayon’s artistic production, when all  I had really managed to do was to appropriate such news, and I was only shyly brushing its vertices. I wasn’t able to understand that such argument was only given to offer the indispensable coordinates to unravel the artifices that she used to make her works, but also to investigate the concerns and uncertainties that obsessed her as an artist and as an individual.

So, Belkis gave me, as perhaps she did with other interviewers, the necessary clues so that I would commit in a deeper quest, to topple once and for all the retaining wall, the limit that marked the difference between the public evaluation of her work and her personal life.
Analyzing today the artistic endeavor of this artist in the light of her unfortunate demise, my vision is very different: her work seems to be more human and visceral, completely devoid of the refinement  involved in technical concerns, rescued from the wish to continue being legitimated as a quasi-folkloric or  nearly anthropological project,  taking into account only its purely existential foundation. I can perceive additionally that what I interpreted at a beginning as an absence of definition, could paradoxically become now, an incontrovertible proof of her capacity for synthesis. If what seemed to interest her was the use of her body as a model to infuse it with all the dramatic force, it was logical to surmise that she would eliminate everything superfluous, all the insignificant details, in order to arrive at the scene of expression, then a gesture, a contortion, a gaze would suffice…

When Belkis made emphasis on Sikán’s conflict, she seemed to want to emphasize her own conflict. The cause for one unfolded increasingly until becoming the cause of the other. The fantastic passage must have been a pretext, an excuse; and the figurative recreation of the real life to show the traces of an anguish, of a lack of satisfaction that no one could grasp and assuage, not even the closest relatives; despite the fact that some of us already felt  a growing contradiction between the gloomy atmosphere, the excessive adversity reflected in her works and the gentle and optimistic character she displayed in front of the others; despite the fact that, during the last days of her life we could see a very strange struggle behind her gaze, a force somehow both disturbed and overanxious, that she knew very well how to conceal behind her cryptical smile.

David Mateo
November 2000

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