UNSPEAKABLE DREAMS, SMOTHERING DESIRES
A solo exhibition by Carmen Mardonez
Curated by Marisa Caichiolo
Building Bridges Art Exchange
November 2022 - January 2023
As Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud once said: “The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.”
This statement alone could very well capture the essence of Chilean artist Carmen Mardonez’s body of work, particularly of her latest exhibition “Unspeakable Dreams, Smothering Desires,” which will usher art lovers into a dream-like world of healing through a stunning art installation featuring 30 recycled bed sheets and over 50 used pillow covers.
I still recall the first time I saw Mardonez’s large textile objects and wall installations, as well as the way she combines her domestic labor and motherhood routines into creating her pieces ––I was completely moved and blown away by her purposeful art, for it helps her to maintain order in both her house and her life.
Furthermore, I immediately knew that she was one of the female textile artists from our local community that I wanted to support through BBAX’s Healing in Community Program.
In the past months, the Chilean LA-based artist created a dreamy paradise, a painterly quality textile with the support of her family members. To this end, she invited community members to share their deepest dreams and desires with her and created a safe space where each dream and desire was embroidered into tens of discarded sheets and pillow covers. By inviting her community to relive their deepest desires and dreams, she helps to deliver much-needed collective healing.
In Mardonez’s own words, “embroidering is like opening a portal to the suppressed and liberating the repressed. It’s a powerful exorcism. The process and the product are cathartic and enveloping. With every stitch, there is a new emergence, something organic coming to life from nothing, constructing its niche, overpopulating the surroundings, mutating in unpredictable ways.” “Dreams and desires that are let to go out become overwhelming on their own… but in ways worth suffering and dealing with,” she adds.
One of the exhibit’s main installations is a dream-like colorful cocoon that visitors step into to sense the feminine energy connected with our planet and inter-connected through the threads embroidered into discarded bed sheets. As the artist points out, there is something mysterious and poetic about this process. As visitors come out of this intimate experience, they will be guided and invited to explore the second installation: a powerful Dream Wall uniting the community’s dreams and desires.
The artist invites viewers to imagine and fantasize ways of surviving the anthropogenic catastrophe that is coming, as well as to consider how our irrepressible desires of creation and liberation might open a new path ––a path with a bright ending or beginning. Ultimately, she invites us all to set free our desires and dreams.
Poetic and breathtaking, Mardonez’s dream-like textile work undoubtedly evokes Freud’s work in the realm of psychology and dream interpretation. Deemed the father of psychoanalysis, the Austrian neurologist created tales to illustrate his revolutionary theories. One of such heroic tales established the relation between dreams and embroidery marks in woven cloaks.
“The trouble taken by the dreamer in preventing the solution of the dream gives me a basis for estimating the care with which its cloak has been woven,” Freud said.
Now it's up to the viewers to decide how much of Freud's influence or inspiration may be present in Mardonez's work.