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An Unholy Artist

Monday, 03 March 2014 12:31 Written by Angélica Abelleyra

She is not only unholy and intolerant of a lack of a sense of humor and an excess of stupidity. Maris Bustamante (Mexico, 1949) is also an impious artist because she uses the letters P, I and A as her sources of inspiration in Performances, Installations and Ambiances, which she has produced for 23 years. Her defining feature is her enormous capacity for laughter, linked to reflections on a series of objects and actions using media with non-traditional techniques, formats and concepts.

Since childhood she was told that she resembled a man, as she questioned everything and busied herself with carpentry and manual work, and over the years grew to value her sexual identity, vindicate feminist art and constantly question two issues: What does awareness of existence mean? and What does it mean to be a woman in Latin American society?

There are no other artists in her family. Her father, a Catalan who adored opera, instilled in María and her siblings Lola and Andrés (the Güiri-Güiri) a deep love of humor, language and intelligence.

As the eldest child, she began to draw at the age of four with her father’s encouragement and kept up this hobby as a teenager, but when she chose it as a career, this support was withdrawn. Despite this, the sale of her paintings and drawings enabled her to complete all the conventional pieces in her painting classes. When she was 15, she placed an advertisement in a newspaper for private lessons, then enrolled at the La Esmeralda Painting and Etching School. She combined this manual activity with a theoretical background acquired through conferences and essays, useful training when she joined the “los grupos” movement in Mexico in the 1970s.

Between 1979 and 1983, No Grupo, composed of Maris, Alfredo Núñez, Melquíades Herrera and the late Rubén Valencia (her husband for twelve years and the father of her two daughters) staged six artistic events and were responsible for several art books and exhibitions. “The Taco Patent” was one of the performances broadcast on television on Guillermo Ochoa’s morning program.

Following those six years, from 1983 to 1992, she and Mónica Mayer established the feminist art group “Blind Chicken Dust”, which carried out “radical actions” such as making a man pregnant in front of millions of spectators and making him experience the condition of being a woman for a day . On another occasion, journalist Guillermo Ochoa accepted an invitation broadcast by Televisa’s Channel 2, which became the video Mother for a Day.

In her teaching post in the Science and Art Department at the Autonomous University of Azcapotzalco for the past 21 years, she has sought to bring together designers and artists, insisting on the urgency of creating whole, non-fragmented beings. In academia, for the past decade she has coordinated and directed the research project “First Inventory of Performance, Installation and Setting in Mexico from 1922 to 1992. (Seven Years of Ephemeral Art in Mexico)”. This will mark the end to a course on non-traditional art forms in Mexico, a subject rarely examined by Mexican specialists. She is interested in forms with a gestural, illogical quality, which do not remain at the stage of elementary madness and instead use art to move, entertain, question and seduce.

A text originally published in La Jornada Semanal (May 13 2001), part of a book edited by UANL.
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