Joana Vasconcelos is an amazing Portugese sculptural artist. She creates sculptures and installations which, as the Museum of Women in the Arts describe, explore consumer culture, collective identity, and our assumptions about what constitutes art. She has been invited to exhibit her work against some unusual and stunning backdrops, including the Palace of Versailles. Her artist biography tells us that her creative process is based on the appropriation, decontextualisation and subversion of pre-existent objects and everyday realities. Her sculptures and installations combine in the materialization of concepts which challenge the pre-arranged routines of the quotidian.
I particularly love her series of crochet lace animals. Joana appropriates the ceramic animal pieces of Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, a very influential nineteenth century Portugese artist, covering them in a layer of beautiful crochet lacework. These amazing three dimensional works, that fit to the ceramics like a glove, show such accomplished craftsmanship. Vasconcelos uses Azores crochet lace in her work, which has been traditionally made by women of the Azores islands for the past one hundred years.
I love it when artists challenge common preconceptions about lace or lacemaking in their work. Lace and lacemaking is often associated with the feminine, or delicacy and softness but Vasconcelos subverts this in her work. Vasconcelos says chooses creatures whose proximity to Man might generate discomfort, awe or fear. Wasps; lizards and snakes; crabs and lobsters; frogs; bull-heads; donkey-heads and horse-heads; wolves; or even cats with an aggressive posture are ambiguously imprisoned/protected by a second-skin. The use of crochet lace in a paradoxical imprisonment/protection of the animals, thus relegated to the domestic context, opens up a vast and rich field of interpretation released by the beauty and strangeness generated by the result of the operation.
Vasconcelos’ work is strange and bizarre, and very beautiful. To see more do visit her website.