PICA inaugurates its residency program with visiting artist Marta María Pérez Bravo, an internationally recognized Cuban photographer whose work over the past eight years has received critical attention worldwide. Pérez Bravo will be in residence in Portland from June 15 – July 11.

Autobiographical in nature, Marta María Pérez Bravo’s self-portraits refer directly to Cuban syncretic mythologies. By using her body as a personal altar, she transforms images of herself into places of ritual and sacrifice through which she demystifies aspects of motherhood, conception, and femininity, while also illuminating elements of punishment, oppression and cultural isolation. Her photographs are charged with contradictory elements which she describes as an effort of creating an “album of carnal categories, independent of human emotion.” Drawing specifically from synthesized religious elements of Catholicism, Candomble and Santería, personal history and metaphoric sign, Pérez Bravo’s work has been received with extreme controversy and critical acclaim.

Born in 1959 in Havanah, Cuba, Pérez Bravo received her degrees from Escuela de Artes Plásticas, San Alendro (1979) and Instituto Superior de Arte (1984), La Habana, Cuba. Within the “New Cuban Art” context – a movement attributed with revitalizing Cuba’s aesthetic and cultural identity during the 1980′s (see Luis Camnitzer New Art of Cuba, Austin 1994), she was the first artist to work with her own body in the immediate and political context of her experience as a woman, and is the only Cuban artist who uses photography expressly for this purpose. In her art, physical objects appear alongside imaginary ones, personal elements alongside mythical references, and become ritual stagings encased in a unique brand of testimonial photography. Working in black and white, her gelatin silver prints — configured as vignettes, appear ghostlike in quality and almost always examine a body subjected to ritualistic constraints.

Her intimate reflections on the self, the body and personal identity are enunciated through her elaborate constructions of new fetishes. Aligned with the formal and conceptual concerns of performance art of the 60′s and 70′s, Perez Bravo creates a kind of body installation which becomes a crossroads of different cultural, religious and existential features, designed for the photograph, which is the final product. Her photography is a vehicle for a kind of frozen performance, posed for the camera, with the real photographer remaining anonymous. Unlike other artists who use photography to bear witness, her work involves photography from the initial stages with the specific result of being shown as photographs. Pérez Bravo’s ironies destabilize assumed certainties and undermine notions of national, cultural, spiritual and gender identities.

PICA’s residency program is designed to foster artistic development by enabling artists/arts professionals to create new work within the NW region. The residencies connect each guest to the local arts community, supporting dynamic interaction between creative people, and provides in-depth exposure to the resources and talent specific to the Northwest.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 24, 1996
CONTACT: Kathy Budas, 503/242-1419

Ed. Note: the dates listed in the press release were correct at the time of publication, but Pérez Bravo’s residency was delayed due to visa issues. The correct dates were noted in the January 1997 newsletter, detailing the work needed to get her to the US for the residency.

From PICA’s January 1997 Newsletter

Marta María Pérez Bravo was one of the artists whose work was featured in “Pushing Image Paradigms” this past summer (1996). Drawing specifically from synthesized religious elements of Catholicism, Candomble, and Santería, personal history, and metaphoric sign, Marta uses her body as a personal altar, transforming images of herself into symbols of ritual and sacrifice through which she explores her identity as a woman. Her work has been received with both controversy and critical acclaim. Marta currently lives and works in Havana, Cuba, and has received numerous awards and international recognition for her unique photography.

Marta was one of the six artists who traveled to Portland for the opening of the photography exhibition. After installing her prints in the exhibition, she immediately went to work in a state-of-the-art darkroom donated by local artists Sally Schoolmaster and Susan Seubert. During her three week stay, she completed the editions of several bodies of recent work for an upcoming exhibition in Monterey, Mexico. In total, Marta printed nearly 150 photographs and put them through an archival wash to ensure the life of the prints. She also participated in a panel discussion for the public, and met numerous local photographers. Marta’s work, along with that of the other ten artists in the exhibition, will be published in a catalogue produced through Wieden & Kennedy which will be available this spring.

PICA’s residency program connects visiting artists with the local arts community by providing them with exposure to the resources and talent specific to this region. Each artist determines the parameters of the residency and what they hope to accomplish. Unlike exhibitions which generate more public exposure, the residencies support the private practice of an artist and the natural relationships that arise as a result of their process. As the program grows, PICA hopes to award up to six residencies per year. This past summer, PICA initiated its residency program by awarding two artists—Cuban photographer Marta María Pérez Bravo and New York sculptor Carol Hepper—with material stipends, studio space, round trip travel, and shipping budgets.

We would like to thank Rebecca and Alexander Steward, Maureen O’Connor, Eloise MacMurray and Gary Hartnet, Susan Harlan and the PSU Art Department Graduate Studies Program, Susan Seubert and Sally Schoolmaster, and PICA’s Enthusiast members for generously contributing to these initial residencies.