Lara Demori: Maternal “Artivism”: mapping the political body in Latin American women artists (‘70s – ‘80s)

Adopting a visual strategy that recovers the tragic, creaturely, primordial and non-conciliatory values of maternity, Latin American women artists investigate this experience from an unexpected and scandalizing perspective: from the 1960s onwards, the pregnant body became the subject of a distressing and therefore eye-catching event. Geographic boundaries reflect such dystopian representation, since each work not only speaks to a common substratum but also mirrors traditions, and cultural and socio-political issues that vary from country to country. Very important are also matters of both exile and migration, since many artists have moved either to Mexico (Marta Maria Pérez) or to the United States (Josely Carvalho): their work is affected by these movements.

Following from these premises, this paper scrutinizes the multiplicity of meanings inherent within the representations of motherhood in the works of the artists Barbara Carrasco (b. El Paso, 1963), Johanna Hamann (Lima, 1954-2017), Marta María Pérez Bravo (b. Havana, 1959), and Josely Carvalho (b. Rio de Janeiro, 1942). It thinks through these artists’ portrayal of the maternal body to unfold historical and cultural varieties with the context of Latin America, appraising political issues (such as the illegality of abortion), anthropological questions (structures of patriarchal power among the Chicano family), and religious factors (the legacy of Afro-Cuban traditions in contemporary Cuban societies), among other issues.

Lara Demori was awarded a PhD in History of Art from the University of Edinburgh in 2017. Her thesis placed the artists Hélio Oiticica and Piero Manzoni in dialogue, focusing on the shift from pictorial abstraction to performance art during the beginning of the sixties. In 2018, Demori was Goethe-Institut Postdoctoral Fellow at the Haus der Kunst in Munich, where she worked under the supervision of Okwui Enwezor on the exhibition project ‘Postcolonial Art, 1960–1980’. Recently, she has been appointed Marcello Rumma Fellow in Contemporary Italian Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which she will begin in fall 2019. Demori has published widely and has organized and participated in numerous international conferences. She regularly contributes to online magazines such as Alfabeta2 and Artribune. Her research interests include but are not limited to: Feminism in Latin American art, post-war art practices in Brazil and Italy, the role of the body and the participation of the audience in contemporary practice, the relation between art and politics in the 60s and 70s, the rapport between art and the nuclear threat – so-called nuclear aesthetics – and issues of conservation and restoration in contemporary art.


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