Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons

Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons. The Seven Powers Coming by the Sea (section). (1992). Timber, soil, metal, photographs. Variable dimensions. Reproduced courtesy of the artist. Photograph by Graeme Sullivan.

As a Cuban born artist, the embodied cognition that shapes the art practice of Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons is her deep cultural connections. For Pons, inquiry into cultural histories involves dealing with the way her black heritage is represented and the realization that “the history that I have access to is the history that is told through a voice that is not necessarily of the black people” (interview with the author, 1996). In investigating these historical dislocations Pons uses the body as a window through which to explore autobiographical aspects of the past. The human form in this sense can be considered to be a body of information that includes formal details, memories, feelings, and the rich repertoire of culturally grounded knowledge. On the other hand, the body can also record the physical and symbolic ruptures inflicted on individuals throughout history.

Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons. The Seven Powers Coming by the Sea (section). (1992). Timber, soil, metal, photographs. Variable dimensions. Reproduced courtesy of the artist. Photograph by Graeme Sullivan.

Acknowledging that art practice involves cognitive processes that are distributed throughout the various media, languages, situations, and cultural contexts offers goes some way in capturing the intensity and scope of thought and action that artists generate. An example of art practice that characterizes thinking in a context is seen in Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons installation, The Seven Powers Coming by the Sea. Pons is a Cuban born installation artist working in the United States and the reflective thinking that shapes her art practice is grounded in her deep cultural affiliation. The realization that she could explore complex issues by making art that documented personal paths convinced her that private passions and cultural concerns were inextricably linked. Visual critique is a primary means used by Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons to investigate the cultural dislocations experienced as a consequence of her Afro-Cuban heritage, and serves as a framework for dialogue with viewers. Pons uses storied forms to explore and reassert histories about her race and culture as a way of reviving traditional techniques such as low relief carving, and as a metaphor around which she shapes her working processes. Artists like Pons, think in a context of social and cultural translations that bring together histories and experiences that force connections between past events as they become embodied in present day states of mind.

Extract from Art Practice as Research, Chapter 5, Visual Knowing, p. 137-38.

On-line video: Interview with Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons.

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