There’s a piece in the latest show by Colombian-American sculptor Natalia Arbelaez that kind of sums up the artist’s halting, four-decades-long drive toward reclamation of her ancestral identity and reconciliation with her cultural heritage. In the piece, called Noche Cosmica en Ella (Cosmic Night of It), a female figure cast in red clay is removing her outer skin to reveal a shimmering cosmos in glaze and gold luster. That this transmogrification is incomplete signals a continuation of the artist’s essential, public journey as well as her continued fealty to her South American ancestry.
Open now at Mindy Solomon Gallery on the outskirts of Miami’s Wynwood art district, Arbelaez’s show is aptly titled La Mujer, La Warmi, y La Lady, “The Woman” is Spanish, the indigenous Latin American language Quechua, and English. The sculptures that make up the installation speak of subjugation, conquest, degradation and want. At the same time, though, they confirm a robust and immortal Latin American spirit that inhabits the conspicuous vein of red clay that runs through the work.
It has not been an easy path for the Brewster, NY, based sculptor, who seems to finally be coming of age as both an artist and a woman. Arbelaez’s work is inseparable from her personal story of yearning and uncertainty and her ongoing search for a sense of belonging in her familial roots in Colombia and in the region’s rich history.