Vanessa Beecroft
Italy, 1969
Vanessa Beecroft trained in Italy and has pursued her career in Los Angeles (USA), where she has lived since the late 1990s. A performer, video artist and painter, she is especially known for the photographic images of her performances, which always involve a large number of participants, often women—dressed in lingerie, nude, or with symbolic props—and sometimes men in uniform. In these early works involving a large number of models, the staging and the venue for the performance—anything from a museum to a military ship—are of great importance. The staging of the models and the way they are dressed are particularly significant when it comes to their symbolic meaning, which overrides any erotic or aesthetic dimension. The conceptual focus shifts between semi-naked bodies and military paraphernalia, between the fragility of undergarments, partial nudity, and crude colours—transparencies that emphasise the vulnerability of the bodies. The photographs of these performances play a documentary role but also work as independent artworks. Beecroft’s output is often perceived as being related to the kind of images we see in fashion and advertising. In fact, despite the naked bodies and provocative staging, these pieces use the body as a building material devoid of any sexual intent. Since the 2000s, the staging of her work has become even more dramatic and she has started to relate her set designs to classical painting, especially religious painting and imagery. Crucified figures often appear, and Madonnas and virgins symbolically carrying two children are a particularly frequent subject. Black Madonna with Twins (2006) and its companion piece White Madonna with Twins (2006), in which a white woman stands with two black children in her arms, both date to this period. It was also around this time that Beecroft travelled to Sudan. The plight of the Sudanese people had a strong impact on her that is reflected in her subsequent work. Since completing her training in Milan, Beecroft has produced conceptual work that is highly influenced by relationships between the everyday and the symbolic. She has often explored these issues through pieces that focus on the human body, which is present in all her output. Though some of her creations may seem superficial at first glance, the dramatic aspect of her work has become stronger over time in tableaux vivants with an increasingly marked symbolic and religious dimension.
Rosa Olivares