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March 3 - April 14, 2001 at Louis Stern Fine Arts

by Margarita Nieto

“Siren", cast bronze, 2000.

“The Choice," cast bronze with white
hand-rubbed patina, 2000.

"The Choice" (detail).

“Figures," bronze,
32 1/2 x 36 x 15".
In Escultura Cecilia Miguez continues a process of following the volition of found objects, for it is the objects, according to the artist, which define and determine the being-ness of the personaes we see. What comes from the interaction between object, cast bronze and carved wood, are fantastic configurations, creatures which seem to leap out of timeless fables and myths, or from within the recesses of our own imaginations and memories. They draw upon the fantastic sources of classical sculpture, painting and draftsmanship in their conception. Revealing shifts between human and animal forms, or asserting the contradictions and angst of the human condition, these creatures have escaped from the gothic imagination of Hieronymus Bosch, and make vague reference to the apparitions in the paintings of Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington.

These creatures reveal their stories as a series of open-ended narratives which quietly but decisively stimulate the imagination. In one installation, an enigmatic Procession commences with two hauntingly familiar figures from Bosch's Last Judgement: A bishop wears a miter composed of two inverted fish, one eating the other. He is leading an unseeing man wearing a hat/headdress with a veil covering his eyes and guided by a tiny bird wearing a harness that renders the animal immobile. Joining these two is a female from another Boschian narrative, The Garden of Earthly Delights, who gestures upward with her hands and turns her torso inside a translucent half bubble that covers her head. Unlike her counterpart, she can see and be seen, although her view is fogged by the bubble.

Two Vessels--tower-like structures made up of found objects with figures creeping and poking their heads and arms out of its apertures--complete the Procession. They form an aperture into a world in which their characters embody dissonant symbols and myths--dissonant because they delicately shatter any settled view of male, female, and religious symbolism.

In another installation entitled Sirens elegant, elongated torsos of female figures are caught in the process of transforming themselves into birds. Their feet become talons and they sprout feathered tails. A group of hatchet headed 'hunters' appears ready to do battle with them. On closer examination, the confrontation is not so simple: The sirens' ripe and swelling bodies are pregnant with eggs. The hunters hunt eggs, made evident in the 'egg catcher' which one of them holds. This battle is about the rule of life, about the role of the life giver, about male and female in symbolic challenge to the natural order of things.

A smaller piece, The Choice, depicts a group of female figures as if in discussion. A familiar composition in Miguez's work, there is, as always, a twist: Figures slowly assume animal masks of horned and antlered moose, buffalo, bulls, and rams. With a counterpoint of delicate craftsmanship--for this piece at first glance and despite its three-dimensionality looks like an etching--the artist once more directs her art to raise questions about gender.

And therein lies the power of this exhibition, in its utilization of the familiar, our collective memories, our cultural baggage conceived as the limitless possibilities of the dream as well as of the awakened imagination. These figures are a contradiction not only in what they depict, but in how they act on the viewer. By shifting our perception of who and what they (we) are, they defy appearances. Seemingly immobile and static, these beings transcend the inert matter from which they are made to emerge as presences capable of shifting your sense of space and time. Catching the second within the second, they change as you view them, and in doing so alter our sense of the familiar, of the accepted.