Vicuña’s Newest Exhibition Poses the Question: What is About to Happen With Climate Change

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Kate Erikson

Chilean-born artist Cecilia Vicuña debuted her first major United States solo exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery. Vicuña takes items that have been discarded and forgotten, and turns them into pieces that are not only beautiful, but reminiscent of new beginnings.

She explores the idea of climate change by including found objects in her work, and “About to Happen” is no exception.

Her work consists of art that is conceptual, of the land, with feminists undertones. She refers to the earth as a woman, mentioning her bleed, possibly alluding to her menstrual cycle.

Vicuña has a type of artistic curiosity that refuses to stick to one discipline. However, all of her pieces have a sense of organic motion that sustain no matter her medium.

“Balsa Snake Raft to Escape the Flood,” stretched across almost the entirety of the room. Vicuña gathered materials sourced from New Orleans, Chile and New York and the piece was created in New Orleans to honor the people who died with Katrina. The objects varied, some of the earth and some man made, but they came together to make a floating raft.

Vicuña has a consistently strong sense of self in her work, however refuses to be labeled by finite distinctions. If one compares “Balsa Snake Raft to Escape the Flood”  and “Burt Quipu” they can see this.

Both pieces are very large, but the design of “Burt Quipu” allows the viewer to walk through it. It is made of dyed wool that hangs from the ceiling to the floor, while “Balsa Snake Raft to Escape the Flood” was made entirely of found objects.

The warm colors of “Burt Quipu” are inspired by the recent Washington fires. One could see it as a visual representation of fire, or perhaps the hanging wool are ropes to help those affected by the fires climb out.

Along with visual art, Vicuña also writes poetry that she incorporates in her pieces.

On the walls, her poetry was printed. Vicuña’s first language is Spanish, that being said, her poetry is written first in Spanish, then English.

Although a vast portion of written work is in Spanish, it speaks every language. It speaks to those who live on this Earth and have a desire to preserve it so those who come after them to can experience the Earth as well.

Vicuña wants those who view her work to look past language and take identity in the language of the universe that all living things share.

At 76, Vicuña continues to make art, write and create work with purpose. For decades Vicuña has not only been faithful to her craft, but also the messages behind it.

“About to Happen,” will be available for public view until mid September of 2019.