The work of María Fernanda Cardoso has a consistent feature – looking at the different ways geometry manifesting itself in living creatures. Cardoso has developed a powerful body of work based on the
intrinsic forms of animals and plants, and combining them in unexpected ways. Her work evolves in series that are developed over a long periods of time, from sculpture to scientific research, through to public performance.
Initially when Cardoso still lived in Colombia, she would take local materials and native dead animals in order to build sculptures and enigmatic objects alluding to pre-Columbian myths and indigenous traditions. Typical objects such as totumas, earth soaps, homemade glue, bocadillos, and other elements pertaining to local cultures were combined in surprising works. Pieces with flies, grasshoppers, snakes, wall lizards and frogs are considered key pieces of contemporary Colombian art: one of them, Corona para una princesa Chibcha(Crown for a Chibcha Princess) was awarded the first prize for the II Biennial at Bogotá’s Museum of Modern Art in 1990.
In the early 1990s, Cardoso moved to the United States, where she began her research on fleas – a ubiquitous domestic parasite. A few years later, the Cardoso Flea Circus, initially a performance belonging to the realm of art, becomes an authentic mass show. Simultaneously, Cardoso investigates the behaviour of insects, with a particular interest in the phenomenon of camouflage, characteristic of some species that may be seen as a reflection of the immigrant’s will to belong and to become one with her context.
After living in San Francisco for several years, Cardoso moved to Sydney, Australia. This led to a renewed investigation of different traditions and materials, such as sheep’s wool and emu feathers, while preserving an emphasis on the intrinsic geometry of the organic.
Cardoso devotes long periods of time to her series, with her work on fleas taking a whole decade. Since the beginning of this century, the artist has undertaken an investigation into the incredible formal diversity of the reproductive organs in some animals, particularly at the microscopic level, in a long-term project on the morphology of reproductive organs of small animals and insects, featured in the Museum of Copulatory Organs (MoCO).
In the last decade, Cardoso has delved further into her research on plants and animals, often resorting to scientific tools and processes to create images otherwise impossible to attain. The Naked Flora series shows close-ups of reproductive organs of flowers, composite images obtained by a complex optical and digital setup.
On the Origins of Art I and II and the Actual Size series focus on the elaborate courtship “dances” of miniature Peacock spiders. In recent years she has created several large-scale public works: Sandstone Pollen, scientifically accurate pollen models digitally carved in sandstone.
While I Live I Will Grow, a living urban sculpture that embodies non-human timeframes as a powerful commentary about the transience of monuments, and Tree Full of Life, a large tree whose foliage is entirely composed of insects that resemble leaves. Gumnuts, her latest series, uses seeds from various species of Australian trees to create vibrant optical pieces that highlight the intricate morphologies of this overlooked but ever present feature of the local landscape.
José Roca & Alejandro Marin
Excerpts from: Animalario de María Fernanda Cardoso.
Bogotá: Seguros Bolívar, 2013. p5
Exhibition: May 20 – June 5
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