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Art, that magical gesture

Monday, 21 April 2014 11:34 Written by Angélica Abelleyra
 

Her path has always been an earthly one, and her works reveal a keen interest in clay, dust, branches, corn, fig trees, wood and reeds. She transforms organic matter into the objects of an archaic, ritual and magic nature, which is where Marta Palau (1934) finds the deep meaning of art.

Her sculptures involve a certain asceticism, a simplification of form. She makes use of the tactile dimension of tapestry, from the warp on the wall to the volume of knotted objects. Her installations exude a tribal, magic quality, such as Waterfall (1978), My Paths are Earthly (1985), Haunt of Shamans (1987) and Scepter (1986), which came off the wall, stretched across wider spaces and flooded museum hall and biennials in Mexico, Brazil and Cuba, until 1988, when another period began with the her nahuallis, the Náhuatl name for sorcerers, witches and protective women, to whom she has since devoted small ceramic, wood or fig wood bodies.

Immersed in earth and myths, Palau is closely bound to the ethnic groups that still populate Baja California state, to which she has been linked for over 40 years since she divides her professional life between Tijuana and Mexico City. In the northern region she met the Cochimí, Cucapá, Kiliwa, Pai-Pai and Kumiai people. Of some she has integrated the shape of their hands into her murals, of others their skill at weaving palm leaves or molding clay. She has also recorded the songs in original language and learnt about their hunting and use of the land for uses other than agricultural, as they consider that it is sacred and must therefore not be perforated.

Thus, like the rock paintings in the caves of Baja California, she imagines and recreates the experience of the ethnic groups in Those who Remain, a 45-meter canvas in the Tijuana Cultural center (February 2001), organizes a march of 250 vinyl feet for her piece Nomads, makes offerings to the five ethnic Northern groups that still resist modern-day Mexico, and pays tribute to Lázaro Cárdenas for his support to Spanish exiles during the Civil War.

Text originally published in La Jornada Semanal (July 8, 2001), part of a book edited by UANL. ©By the author.

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