Mama/Reciprocal Energy: Reciprocity as an Agent of Identity Formation in the Works of Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons

Christi L. Weinhuff


Since immigrating to the United States in the early 1990s, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons has garnered praise as one of the most important artists to emerge from post-revolutionary Cuba. Campos-Pons’ oeuvre bears witness to issues central to the experience of diaspora populations. On view for the first time, the exhibit “Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons: MAMA/RECIPROCAL ENERGY” at the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery (October 12 – December 8, 2011) presents new works by Campos-Pons that attest to the ability of fragmented and seemingly dislocated elements of the artists’ lived experiences to coalesce into a multifaceted identity. The dynamic quest for selfhood demonstrated by the works rejects absolutes; rather, it fosters an interconnected network where issues such as gender, exile, dislocation, race, religion, and cultural memory play out in a reciprocal manner. This paper first establishes Campos-Pons’ early conceptual basis as an artist. What follows is an extensive exploration of the exhibit argued through a thematic dynamic that highlights the relationship of themes among and between the works. Finally, it suggests that while Campos-Pons’ conceptual basis retains its earliest formative notions, the shifting narrative that emerges from the exhibit and corresponding stylistic changes confirm the inclusion of the artists’ entire lived experiences in her artistic search for identity.

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