An Artist Reimagines Goya’s “Los Caprichos” Through a Queer Feminist Lens
Emily Lombardo isn’t the first artist to take inspiration from Francisco de Goya’s historic “Los Caprichos.” More than two centuries after the Spanish master released the series of prints—80 etchings and aquatints created in 1797 and 1798—Salvador Dalí reinterpreted the works in his own signature surrealist style.
It’s no wonder that the series served as a creative catalyst for Dalí, and later Lombardo—a Boston-based conceptual artist who earned her MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Art—and presumably other artists in between. “Los Caprichos” is a tour de force. The original set of 80 etchings and aquatints created in 1797 and 1798, vaguely reminiscent of a vintage set of tarot cards with titles like Nobody knows himself and It is better to be lazy, are a critique of the Spanish society that Goya himself lived in. In the words of Goya, the works portray “the innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilized society, and from the common prejudices and deceitful practices which custom, ignorance or self-interest have made usual.”
But while Dalí reimagined “Los Caprichos” in his personal style to produce his “Les Caprices de Goya” series, Lombardo takes another approach. The look of her own series of 80 prints, entitled “The Caprichos,” is stylistically similar to Goya’s, at least on first glance. Lombardo re-examines Goya’s moralizing messages through an entirely different lens. A lens that is, to be specific, queer and feminist, instead of the default, straight and male. Like Goya, who positioned himself as the critic of the world he lived in, Lombardo, too, explores contemporary issues in her own place and time: gender politics and commerce, the art world, consumerism, celebrity culture, the devastation of war. Appearing in her work are recognizable references to the Space Race, the Cold War, Miley Cyrus’ provocative performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, and Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God—the diamond skull sculpture that the British artist priced at $100 million in 2007.
As Lombardo explains, “My work seeks to pull back the foggy membrane of collective and individual history to construct narratives about ‘other’ and how we are located in cultural space….The aim of this practice is to reveal the connective tissue that binds us as humans regardless of race, religion, class, gender and sexuality.” It’s fitting that many pieces from the series remain in the vicinity where the artist physically lives—in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Public Library, and at Childs Gallery.