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September 14 - October 26, 2002 at Louis Stern Fine Arts, West Hollywood

by Bill Lasarow

Cecilia Miguez' facility at creating figures that caress the eye may be placed in an arena that includes the likes of Robert Graham, John Frame, and Ron Pippin. Her talent heightens expectations that the visual allure she delivers with relative ease arrives with potent aesthetic underpinnings. When she subordinates the veneer of her technical gifts to a juggler's sensitivity for varied media and a storyteller's way with a yarn, the rich emotional and imaginative sparks yield a memorable experience. Telling details--the tilt of a head, the choice to carve an object versus employing a found object --lend intiguing dimension to figures that are essentially of a type. The idealized beauty of these otherwise anonymous female entities opposes the eccentric flair of their accoutrements.

It's tempting to view these ladies as high-end fashion models sporting the latest in avant garde dressware. Indeed, the group of nudes in Journey exude a sexual confidence that can attract and hold the eye, but there is a greater payoff from more embellished single figures such as in The Long Journey. In the latter work the bronze figure is dressed in a form fitting rubber wet suit. She stands poised with a found offering bowl doubling as a wood dugout around her waist. Her feet are firmly planted atop a simple wheeled cart of a pedestal, so she is ready for travel, be it by land or sea. The kicker is the headgear, a pair of panels crammed with size distorting lenses (which intriguingly also pop up at the bottom of the boat) in front and back. An array of additional small objects lend her striking and incongruous appearance a bewildering fascination. Functionality gives way to symbolism, not just in this particular work but at every turn.

That dynamic is precisely what keeps Miguez’ work moving forward. She absolutely fits the mould of the Latin American mystical and surrealist sensibility. Her secular religiousity is confirmed in a parallel series of Enlightenment Kits, shelf and stands of carefully selected and lovingly composed found objects and fragments (no figures here) that reflect what the series' title suggests: the deep seeing of an empowering interplay of images gives way to transcendent experience. This hardly amounts to a fresh realization; but the clarity of Miguez’ conviction and her willingness to follow where her inner experience leads provides the aesthetic gravity that transforms her technical skill into artistic substance. But the most central starting point from which her own journey begins is certainly those mesmerizing heads--which may be alternately obscured or quite prominent. By Miguez’ own account these heads are a constant in that she hand sculpts each one, and does so without reference to a model. Their naturalism is the result of internalized know-how; but who they are is a direct product of who the artist is, who she projects. The evolution of a very real presence, as opposed to a neat stylization, is the thing to look for in these faces.

Time Keeper is an acrobat/magician type that is now becoming overly formulaic in Miguez’ body of work. The "shirt" of clocks and the monkey, who playfully eyes the little bell hanging low from a string extending from the tip of her enormous cap, adds up to the image of a jester who provokes our laughter while mocking the limits of our mortality.

"The Long Journey," 2002, bronze/
found objects, 39 x 12 x 34".

“Time Keeper,” 2002, bronze/wood/
found objects, 43 x 12 x 11”.

“All My Secrets,” 2002, bronze/wood/
iron/found objects, 37 x 14 x 9”.

“Daughter of Hud,” 2002, bronze/wood/
found objects, 61 x 16 x 13”.

Daughter of Hud does an excellent job of arousing a more complex set of responses. The vertical darkwood base supports a blonde wooden cube over which is set a metal covering with Latin wording inscribed in a frieze along the bottom edge. Out of this altar-like platform sprouts delicate bronze castings. A pair of feet portrude from the front of the base. Arms and a pair of hands spill demurely along the sides of the blonde cube. And that refined, white head, embellished with a potato masher cap and small metal cape, somehow activates what should be dead or at least austere into a figure rich with possibility. Here Miguez gets you to ask yourself: How'd she do that?