Deli Gallery’s booth at Material Art Fair 2018 highlights new work from Sarah Zapata, Camilla Engstrom, and Athena Torri, each of whom explores gender, cultural performativity, and mixed-race heritage in a personal and unique stylistic language.
Drawing on her identity as a Peruvian-American artist, Zapata examines the appropriation of value within a gendered production process. Using common materials like yarn and fabrics, as well as ubiquitous consumer objects, Zapata’s sculptures incorporate imagery of the feminine, the fetishized and the handmade. Sometimes these combinations form a unified whole, other times a jarring assemblage. Altogether, Zapata creates a body of work that is steeped in tradition yet attentive to systems of control and labor.
Camilla Engstrom's painting practice is centered on a gender-bending cartoon character of her own creation named Husa – Swedish for "housemaid". Mischievous and sexual, the figure acts at once as an alter ego for the artist and as a cipher for issues like body shaming, self confidence and gender normativity. Engstrom’s paintings create a surreal alternative mythology that draws from diverse elements of her background, ranging from Chinese Buddhist symbols to Swedish folklore.
Athena Torri’s work engages with Aya Huma, the Ecuadorian folk character that embodies the spirit of nature, and Cayambe, the 19,000-foot volcano where Aya Huma is said to get its power. Through syncretism with Catholic traditions the Aya transformed into a devil that is today called Diablohuma. While Torri’s photographs explore this particular human and geological relationship, the artist also examines her personal narrative within the mountains, highlighting a history of colonization that is made manifest in both the nation of Ecuador and in Torri herself, a mixed-race Latin American woman. Taken together, the works in this exhibition prompt a conversation around the place of the artist within dynamic and sometimes conflicting cultural orders.
Each of the artists draws from disparate formal vocabularies to create a synthesis that is at once affective and critical, intimate and universal. Personal identity is indispensable here, but it functions as a portal rather than a prison.