publication of the International Sculpture Center
Damien B. Art Center
by John Vitale
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Marrero, Charcoal Energy Curve, 2004. Wood, charcoal and
matchsticks, 56 logs of variable dimensions.
has been part in religious thinking since the dawn of mankind. Its esoteric
powers and destructive force have both frightened and comforted, depending
on the time and place. Mythological systems around the world have incorporated
it into stories thousands of years old. In the latest exhibit of sculpture
by Cuban-born artist Ena Marrero, not only does her volatile concoction
of art threaten to engulf us in flames, but she makes us participants
in several ancient fire myths.
Indian practice of Sati (or Suttee) is the subject of one piece, Charcoal
Yesterdays Heat (2004). Sati is the practice whereby a widow throws
herself onto her husbands funeral pyre, and it still continues today
despite being outlawed by the British in 1829. Many believe its origins
lie within the myth of the goddess Sati herself, whose absent husband
Shiva was gravely insulted by her father. In a fiery rage, she self-immolated
and rejoined her husband as his new consort, just as Marrero invites us
to do. On a cold metal bed frame that rests high upon gray concrete, a
frightening assemblage of newspaper stacks lie bound together with bright
orange electrical tape. Charcoal briquettes lay in cut incisions atop
each stack, as if an electrical fire were imminent.
head of the bed, in place of pillows, are two square bundles of tall red-tipped
matchsticks that are set to ignite the ritual act. There is also an undeniable
presence of the dead hovering about Marreros work. Disembodied voices
seem almost to chant and sing as they dance about Charcoal Energy Curve
(2004). The charred logs that spiral toward the blazing red center of
matchsticks could very well be the preparations for a Native American
fire ritual. It has the meditative effect and the appearance of something
ancient and sacred, like a sort of crude and combustible portal into another
spirits are evoked in another piece, Charcoal Lotus Heart (2004), in which
an unlit bonfire of logs surrounds dried lotus roots and a mandala of
black sand that suggests gunpowder. Additional matchsticks and briquettes
speak of the fire god Agni, whose name is the origin of the English word
ignite. According to the Rig Veda (the earliest Hindu scriptures)
Agni was born from a lotus flower and began life as a water deity. He
was later transformed after the remote and mountain-dwelling storm god,
Rudra, hit him with a thunderbolt.
Marrero is drawing from the same wellspring as British sculptor David
Nash, whose own work with charred wood speaks of a deep spiritualism.
She handles her own materials with an intuitive understanding of shamanism,
often in a way that raises the mysterious questions: Who made this?, and,
Why? Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we are drawn into an unconscious
mystical participation with the elemental forces that lie at the root
of our very being.
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