-the world as I see it
I had never heard of Joana Vasconcelos until last Saturday, when my friend Su told me that we had to visit the Palacio Nacional da Ajuda in Lisbon to check out her art exhibit before we left. Vasconcelos is a renowned Portuguese artist known for her extravagant and sometimes, controversial work pieces. The Ajuda National Palace at Lisbon is currently showcasing some of her work. With its huge rooms and impeccable interiors, the Palace is ideal for housing Joana Vasconcelos’ larger-than-life works of art.
What is special about Vasconcelos’ art is the contemporary feminist statement she makes through them. She sees herself as a modern day feminist- someone who fights for human rights rather than someone who is a women’s lib campaigner. Right from the usage of crochet to utensils to tampons, Joana Vasconcelos ensures that a strong effeminate sense emanates through her work.
Joana Vasconselos rose to fame with her artistic creation ‘The Bride’, a chandelier made from 25,000 tampons. When asked to explain the significance of the piece, she said that it was something that she worked out as a connect between a chandelier and bridal gown. The chandelier is regarded as a symbol of grandeur and luxury across Europe and the bridal gown is a common object that is special to every woman. She chose tampons to add feminine character. While the Palace at Versailles refused to house the tampon chandelier, citing reasons of it not being in good taste, the Palace in Lisbon was more receptive and allowed the piece of artwork to go on display. In contrast to the pure white chandelier, is the black candelabra ‘Carmen’ hanging from the ceiling in the topmost floor.
She extensively uses Portuguese crochet to cover sculptures of animals and human figures.
Apart from thread crochet, she also uses woolen crochet in some of her works.
The ‘Red Independent heart’ is a model of the heart of Viana, a traditional heart- shaped symbol of the beautiful Portuguese beach town Viana do Castelo. In contrast to the original heart of Viana which is made of filigree, the model is made of red plastic cutlery.
‘Marilyn’ is one of her works that I like the most. The work is a pair of shiny silver high-heels made with pots and pans. It represents the conflict between a dreamy Marilyn Monroe lifestyle and the drudgery of doing household chores.
The Lilicopter, a bejewelled helicopter decorated with salmon pink ostrich feathers is a tribute to Marie Antoinette, a feminist of her time. Marie Antoinette used to breed ostriches in her garden and plucked their feathers to decorate her hats.
The water lilies made with steam irons have a mechanism to open and close, with each iron representing a petal in the flower.
I was a little creeped out by her artworks made with artificial hair.
The Garden of Eden, an array of glow-in-the-dark flowers right at the beginning of the exposition was my favourite. But as my camera doesn’t work very well in dark settings, I wasn’t able to get any good pictures of it.
If you’re travelling to Lisbon, you can catch the exhibition there until the 25th of August, 2013.