The Penelope Syndrome

Intimacy and Time in the work of Gabriela Reyna

/ 1 September, 2018

Weaving and knitting is the feminine occupation par excellence in the Homeric stories. We know of the Achaean heroine because of her knitting during the day of a shroud which she used to unknit at night. That way she gained time to get out of a new, undesired marriage.

Since then there is an entire universe linked to the feminine that is associated to those tasks and the functions of women in society, which have been generous pretexts for art and sociocultural studies. Perhaps that is why the work of the young Gabriela Reyna has centered her artistic investigation on the attire and everything that involves it: clothes, makeup, the process of making clothes, trades, spaces, fashion, tradition (….).

Athena had given Odysseus’ wife certain qualities in excess: to have great skills in very beautiful feminine tasks and sharp thinking. In this sense, Gabriela Reyna is interested in manual dexterity, women’s image and their roles. Many of her installations are a direct reference to the wardrobe with a marked semiotic accent that rounds of the materials she uses (…).

Even though she is not precisely interested in a gender discourse, with these exercises, in which she resorts to materials and procedures proper of her artistic contemporariness, she inquires about women’s obsessions, their frustration, seduction and sagacity…an entire universe of resignation, transcendence and inexhaustible redemption, only comparable to Penelope’s perseverance, fidelity and uncertainties. Gabriela displays her subthemes by series, which in parallel remain open as she experiments with diverse procedures.

In her most recent pieces of the series Cosas de hembra, she uses makeup to reproduce over towelettes large works of universal art that have women as protagonists. Her interest lies in revising their historic image from a male perspective. With this technical strategy she establishes a dialogue between the resources and the vision of the different periods, giving sense to the iconography she reproduces as well as the materials used, associated to that action of embellishing, transfiguring, hiding, highlighting. (…)

The time for the production of the work increasingly reaches greater organicity in her pieces. Most of her performances are not directly produced for the camera. Gabriela warns that “they are documented actions that I cannot document with means like painting and drawing. Not even with photography, because the notion of the static is diluted in them in favor of the sequence, of the temporariness of the action”. The conceptual repercussion is located in the process, and perhaps in the disarticulation of the built and permeated reality that usually entails the self-image, in which there is a strong hedonist component based on aesthetics as well as ethics.

(…) The projects presented for two international stays are proof of a conceptual tour that increasingly makes the categories of the self-referential and the ephemeral more consistent, from the semiotic point of view. For these international confrontations she has proposed “pieces that I have always thought, but which are above all for when I am outside of my context”. (…)

Onedys Calvo

Onedys Calvo

She holds a master’s degree in Art History. Lives and works in Havana. She is a curator with the City Historian’s Office and contributes to various specialized publications, such as ArteCubano, Revolución y Cultura and OPUS Habana. She also contributes to the radio station Habana Radio as a journalist, and is the director of the Center for Interpretation of Cuba-Europe Relations, Palacio del Segundo Cabo, Havana.

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