Studio Visit: Mayen Alcantara
Date: Wednesday, November 2nd
Location: Bushwick, NY
Collapsing Agreements in Disputed Territories paper on panel 2011
Image: MidPhenomena: Northern Lights (Arctic Ocean), 2011, paper, 23 X 54 inches
“My work reflects the distortions that occur when a range of pressures force a formalization of long established traditions or informal agreements. I am drawn to the exaggerations and compromises that are devised to fit non-compatible loose volumes into rigid paradigms that, though generally logical, often generate disorienting results.”
Studio Visit Synopsis:
Mayen AlcantaraInitially to many of the studio visitors, Mayen Alcantara’s new color paper collages read at first as purely abstract compositions. Upon closer inspection, in fact, they refer to landscapes, places in transition that have been transformed through human impact. Mayen is however not engaged in representing direct images of trees, clouds or buildings but is instead interested in nature as phenomena. Mayen refers to all of the collage work currently in her studio as drawings.In two of her drawings, the composition is divided using pieces of paper forming a grid with the upper images reflecting the lower panels. These pieces are translated from source imagery relating to acts of nature: the Aurora Borealis over Michigan and an image taken before the impact of hurricane Irene in Vermont.Two of the other works relate to the effects of human action on the landscape and borrow from satellite images of the compounds of Osama Bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi. These drawings titled Collapsing Agreements In Disputed Territories differ from the other works in the angular shapes of cut paper used and the type of focal, centralized satellite derived composition used.The aim of the background surfaces, board and sketch book sized paper, which contain the collage images were a topic of contention in the discussion. While some participants found the panel and paper framed the collages successful, others questioned the necessity of a bounding box in favor of the bare wall as the background surface.
Mayen’s past work has included large-scale installations incorporating wood and paper structures. Present in the studio were several older pieces, geometrically constructed paper relief pieces mounted to the wall. These pieces incorporate different types of paper and mark making absent from the more recent collage drawings and seem to more directly reference the language of topography and maps. Some studio visitors felt that the bas-relief sentiment and construction could be utilized to inform the new collage work.
The group discussed whether a reading of the work beyond an aesthetic, compositional understanding is readily available to the viewer without background information or title. In Mayen’s case, titles help to provide a window into the content of her source materials. What is the necessity of knowing about the source material or background information in order to understand or appreciate a work?
– Amanda Lechner
Cabinet: The Paper Sculpture Book and Show