Arts & Entertainment

Cuban artist Celia Ledon brings LatAm baroque to new territory

By Ana Mengotti

Miami, May 11 (EFE).- Hats, straws with which to sip refreshments, collars made of tin, fabrics made of junk and weavings of cassette tapes. Any material will do for Cuban visual artist Celia Ledon in creating her works straddling fashion and sculpture that are now on display at New York’s Kennedy Center.

“There are people who’ll wear anything!” she says happily during an interview with EFE about her creations, the relationship between fashion and art and the dichotomy inherent in “belonging to a group and being unique” that the act of dressing poses for a person.

Ledon is in the process of creating a series of “Wearable Installations” that will be part of a tribute to Spanish painter and sculptor Manolo Valdes in Doral, a city in the Miami metro area.

For one of her installations, the artist is concocting a “pannier” with a metallic border – the framework item worn under their dresses by upper-class women in the 17th century, as depicted in Velazquez’s famous portrait “Las Meninas.”

“It’s not the same thing as a hoop skirt, which is a rounded shape,” said the artist, fashion designer, art director and film wardrobe consultant, who has 13 films to her credit, including “Yuli,” by Spain’s Iciar Bollain and starring dancer Carlos Acosta.

Ledon, who lives in Cuba and graduated in industrial design in Havana, said that behind her creations is the idea of recyclinc, reusing and “decontextualizing” objects and items from daily life, including dozens of straw hats which have been transformed into a skirt full of motion like the flounces in a flamenco dress.

Ledon’s interest in “Las Meninas” is one of the points of connection between the artist and Manolo Valdes, evidence of whose works is found inspiring the creations of her current project at the request of the Doral Contemporary Art Museum (DORCAM).

The artist will put the crowning touch on the exhibit titled “The Legacy,” consisting of some 20 of Valdes’s monumental works that are on display in parks in Doral.

A parade of models displaying the “wearable installations” on a streetside catwalk across which dancers and musicians also will move will wrap up the exhibition of the works of Valdes, who has lived in New York for decades, although he also has a home in Miami.

Of the 20 outfits to be shown at the “360-degree show” Ledon has already completed about a dozen and the others are “all inside my head.”

She’s working alone and surrounded by materials picked up at Home Depot or picked out of a container of industrial waste.

There are two black outfits, one made of drinking straws and another made from plastic tape that adorn mannikins as examples of “Latin American baroque” art, Ledon says of her work.

She calls herself a “fashion victim,” just like – she says – most Latinos.

They worry a lot about their outward appearance, “at times too much and … in a way they shouldn’t,” Ledon said, adding that she is very interested in the concept of fashion victim, in unchecked consumption and in the “suffering” this implies, and she wants to devote her next exposition to that issue.

She has produced two collections for Cuba’s Clandestina label – “Pais en construction” and “Glorias deportivas” – and she has her own collection of everyday wear ready to produce for which she has used as a basis what in Cuba they call a “pullover,” a sweatshirt or jumper.


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