“I began to use textiles in my installations in order to make it possible for people to interact with my work by entering these spaces, caressing their contents, and resting on the fluffy fabrics,” Meléndez says. The printmaker, painter, and installation artist constructs immersive environments using embroidery and appliqué techniques more commonly used in small-scale works.
The amount of labor evident in these monumental yet carefully detailed pieces is part of their power. “I obstinately embroider canvases of enormous size, accumulating and organizing huge amounts of materials, tearing, mending, and filling them constantly,” Meléndez explains.
In one towering installation, El Ingenio Colectivo o la Maldición de la Cotorra (2014), a cloud of soft sculpture heads and hands hovers above a line of quilted, headless bodies and a large arrangement of foam, wooden palettes, and shoes. The arrangement suggests a group of bodies divided into three parts—a seductive yet disturbing arrangement of materials. Meléndez, who is interested in issues of women’s identity, sexuality, and representation, hopes that reactions to her assemblages are complicated.
“What seems inoffensive is also menacing,” she says. “The viewer can be pricked by a pin, or become tangled in ‘vines’ of fabric. They might feel moved or threatened by the phrases embroidered on the textiles.”