2014. Encaustic on wood and canvas, axe, brass chain, 11’L x 4’H x 2’W.
The theme of injustice in this new series by Esperanza Cortes extends an important continuum in the artist’s oeuvre. In this series, Cortes exposes commodity industries that are dependent upon abusive practices.
The imbedded beads that cover Emerald Tears shimmer in artificial light, a beautiful effect that fetishizes the forms within - a fist, a skull, a heart - and convey a dark truth about their origin. These objects are a metaphor for the cruel system of oppression and violence that is carried out in the name of wealth by the emerald industry in Colombia. The disturbing nature of the system is strikingly conveyed in the juxtaposition between the decorative aspects and forms of Emerald Tears. The beaded covers function as body bags that are possessive of their human contents.
In this series, Cortes explores the illusion of value and pairs aging, found objects with contemporary artisan materials. The legs and pedal of a Singer sewing machine support the display case in Emerald Tears. There is an eighty-year-old axe hanging on a shiny new brass chain in Sonata. In Black Gold, metal beads are contrasted with a wooden stand, which Cortes found in an abandoned factory. The older found objects are closer in their chemical makeup to natural resources, reminding us of the rapidly changing patterns of global development.
Ultimately, the nature of work is becoming more predatory than beneficial, and this pattern is occurring on a global scale that separates the consumer from the producer. Returning to Sonata, a history of trauma lurks in the edge of the worker’s dulled axe and is exaggerated by the red smears in the black encaustic backdrop. Cortes expresses the worker’s vulnerable position in a brutal world as a disposable commodity in a system of illusory values.
Alicia JD Cooper
2015, Encaustic on wood panels and linen, silver chains on clay, 11'L x 7' H x 6" D
My recent work is a series of installations, sculptures and paintings which explore the theme of injustice as it extends as an important continuum that is at the roots of the predatory gem and mineral excavation industry, which has it's origins during Colonization. The installations express the worker’s vulnerable position in a brutal world as a disposable commodity in a system of illusory values. The artwork seeks to heightened an understanding of the shared social, political, environmental, and cultural challenges we face in our global reality.
Detail, 2015, Encaustic on wood panels and linen, silver chains on clay, 11'L x 7' H x 6" D
2016, Clay, chain, 40"L x 8"W x 4"D
Many of the artisanal gold miners in Colombia are Afro Colombian women, who say that they have been mining since they were in their mothers wombs. The land that they have mined for hundreds of years is being stolen from them by the Colombian government.
2016, chandelier, gold leaf, 1000 feet of gold plated jewelry chain, brass beads, glass beads, 18' L x 6' diameter
2016, Encaustic on wood panels, metal chains on clay sculpture, brass chains, brass candle holders, wood, candles, 11'h x 16' w x 7' d
2014. Clay sculpture, metal ball chain, wood. 6’L x 2’H x 1’ d
The imbedded metal chains that cover Black Gold shimmer in artificial light, and convey a dark truth about their origin. These objects serve as a metaphor for the cruel system of oppression and violence that is carried out by mineral industries, whether they are mining gold in Brazil, blood diamonds in Sierra Leone, or emeralds in Colombia.
The black heart mourns the Indigenous and African populations massacred for the retrieval of wealth while gold chains cascade down and away from it. These chains form a sort of bridal train that bears in mind the unions forced upon Indigenous peoples that lay the groundwork for much of the gendered, sexual, and racial politics found throughout Colombia today.
2014. Clay, emerald shell ships, wood. 20” L x 24” H x 20” W.
This installation highlights the exploitation and the utilization of human capital within the gem and mineral industries. In Colombia, as in many other countries, while the emerald industry and it’s international demand is at an all time high, it is also at the center of funding the ongoing civil conflict. This body of work explores the roots and the consequences of the predatory gem and mineral excavation industry in Latin America.
“Cumbia” takes its name from the Afro-Latin dance and music which originated in Colombia's Caribbean coastal region around 1648 and was originally danced in shackles.
The clay sculpture represents a Zambo woman (African and Indigenous) of this era. In warfare, among the first assets to be plundered are women. It is a violent pattern which has been repeated in the appropriation of the resources of numerous countries. Separated from its body the head serves as a symbol for the spiritual and intellectual strength that these women and their culture possessed and the colonizers had no claim to. Emerald shell chips embedded above the left eye are a reminder of the history of cultivation that predates the arrival of the Spaniards.
The sculpture lays upon a wooden bench found in an abandoned factory in New York City, a relic from a bygone era.
2010 - 2014. Crystal, glass beads on clay, metal base, plinth. 84” L x 48 W x 60” H
At the core of my sculptures, installations and interventions is the historical and cultural mosaic of the Americas and the Caribbean that has fostered an amazing variety of folk art traditions, rituals, and their continuous and evolving changes. I use a wide variety of materials and sculptural methods often in combination with reworked found objects. These works are impregnated with cultural symbols that act as sites of memory, both individual and collective, and implements the human body as a symbol and expression of nature, vulnerability and power. The art examines the extent to which consciousness defines itself through the opposing force of the transcultural experience.
2010, Crystal on clay, 8’ X 6”
2010, Crystal on clay 12’ X 6”
2012, Crystal on clay, 8” X 6”
2013, Crystal on clay, 8” X 6”
2013, Crystal on clay, 8” X 6”