María Magdalena Campos-Pons
Born Matanzas, Cuba, 1959. Lives Brookline, MA
Seven Polaroid photographs
20 x 24 inches each; 72 x 60 inches overall
Collection Miami Art Museum, museum purchase with funds from the MAM Collectors Council
Credit line: Reproduced with the permission of the artist
Photo credit: Peter Harholdt
María Magdalena Campos-Pons has built her career as an installation artist, photographer, and performance artist. Born and raised in Cuba, she trained at the Superior Institute of Art (ISA) in Havana. Since her arrival in the United States from Cuba in 1991, Campos-Pons has created work that is an open-ended and continually evolving investigation of history and memory and their roles in the formation of identity. In a relatively short span of time, Campos-Pons has produced a prodigious amount of work that challenges the categories of race, nation, gender and class. Campos-Pons makes the complex journey into individual self-determination, drawing her inspiration from both the Cuban society from which she originates, her American home, and the world at large.
The two women in this double portrait seem to represent two different generations. They hold strings of multicolored beads reminiscent of those worn by devotees of various Afro-Cuban religions. The colors relate to different deities or orishas in the Yoruba pantheon. The blue and clear beads held by the older woman on the left signify Yemayá, the two-headed goddess of the sea, the "Mother of Waters". The pearls are particular to Obatalá, the creator god, and indicate serenity. Dressed in flowing white clothes befitting a Santería initiate, the younger woman (the artist herself) holds the red-spotted yellow and amber beads proper to Ochún, who is associated with sexuality and motherhood. While the partitioned format that the artist uses to depict the two women creates a sense of fragmentation (Campos-Pons has not seen her mother since she left Cuba in 1991), the beads suggest that the figures are bound together by ritual and tradition.