On “Instructive Memory to Penetrate the Flesh” [[Or “Lessons on Penetrate the Skin”]], by María Cienfuegos”
By Nancy Morejón
Translated by Virginia Benítez
Throughout the month of April, the gallery of at the Rubén Martínez Villena library in the Plaza de Armas in Old Havana has held an interesting exhibit of photos by the young artist María Cienfuegos.
Now in the XXI century, photography—historically one of the most modern art forms—has incorporated technological and electronic elements into its various styles, becoming a mysterious, poetic language that perpetuates an aesthetic of the natural world through its look at flora and fauna.
This is what María Cienfuegos presents: an observant eye that has transformed the body of a fish into the material of poetry by using the transparency of the lens, multiplying the image until the point of satiety into order to return the biblical and epochal meaning of the fish—which symbolizes reproduction and the possibility of creation—to the spectator.
María desires to use the lens to transform the environment of these fish, fish we come to know through the moment when the researcher names them rather than through their natural movements below the sea. The body of the fish in these photos recalls the oceanic legend of the “Body of the Dolphin,” the unforgettable poem by the painter Fayad Jamís whose verses returned once and again to the multiple gazes of the marine animal, as amazingly vocalized by the poet of Los puentes.
Through these strangely beautiful photos we are given the rare splendor of a moonfish (Vomer setapinnis) revealing itself like an instructive revision through the body of another fish until it collides with the Achirus gumeans, which has been revived thanks to Linné’s nomencaltures from 1758. Three centuries later, María invites us on a journey that provides a testimony of the tools, forms, and notes of the scientists that recorded the marine life of the islands.
This chronicle—consisting of light and shadows—combines the quietude of a fish with the precise memory necessary to penetrate the flesh of a dead animal, alive now before our eyes and trapped beneath María’s lens in images informed by the lessons of the Cartier-Bresson. Those of us in attendance appreciate the exhibit’s revelatory engagement with both time and space.
The curator, Sara Alonso, has acknowledged the metaphor and accepted order of observation in her arrangement of the exhibit by installing it in four collages in the small space of the gallery. This daring, fresh, and straightforward photographic adventure boosts the burgeoning work of María Cienfuegos.
The thesis of the exhibit is in the exploration of a real, tangible world that moves the spectator through its dreamlike presentation, predicting new paths for photography which are at once biblical and human and that uncover the possibility of a poetic act its purest form, like the marrow of bone pregnant with water, earth, and futurity.
Morejón, Nancy. Para Penetrar la Piel. La Gaceta de Cuba, 4, 2010, p. 62 – 63.