Me, We, Women

Luisa Callegari Bio

Born in 1994 in Brasil, Luisa lives and works in São Paulo, Brasil. Multimedia artist. Producing and researching about body, gender violence, porn, and motherhood. Graduated in Fine Arts at Faculdade Santa Marcelina (2015) and Master’s degree in Fine Arts at UNESP – Instituto de Artes (current). She was granted with CAPES scholarship (2019/20) and awarded at the exhibitions Salão Virgínia Artigas (2020) and at 48o SAC de Piracicaba (2016). Her work was exhibited throughout Brazil and abroad including Chile, Italy, France, England, and USA. Selected exhibitions: Narrativas do Digital (Casa Niemeyer, DF, Brasil, 2021); Feminist demands in Contemporary Art (MIA Anywhere, 2020); Amaurose Fugaz (Centro Cultural Rio Verde, SP, Brasil, 2020); Ebinnale (Chiesetta della Misericordia, Venice, Italy 2019); A menina mais feia da turma (Ateliê 397, São Paulo, Brasil 2019); VeniceLands ArtPrize  (Casa dei Mezzadri, Italy, 2019); Eminent Domain (Art511, New York, USA, 2018); A Sensual Aggression (St Anne’s Galleries, Lewes, UK, 2018); 50 Nuances de Rose (59Rivoli, Paris, France, 2018); Cá entre nós (OA Galeria, ES, Brasil, 2018).

Vaca da cara rosa, 2020, Vacas series, plastic mask, and acrylic paint, 35x45x15 cm

Curator: The Vacas Series, features cow and foal with bold colors and transformation. Could you explain more about the metaphoric meaning of these animals? Do these motives interrelate with female, mothers and labor?

Luisa: The cows are, just like us, mammals. Today milk and its derivatives are the most consumed food worldwide, and the cows are responsible for the majority of this milk production. Once again, just like us, cows can only produce milk after they give birth to their foals. This means that the most consumed food is made by the exploration of maternal work. Have you ever been in a farm that produces milk? The foals have to be separated from their mothers in order that the milking can happen, and this doesn’t go without suffering from both of them that can be loudly heard through their lowing. In my perspective, human mothers also have their workforce explored while doing unpaid work such as house cleaning and maintenance, childcare, homeschooling and much more. In Brasil we have campaigns that aims to encourage breastfeeding by pointing out as one of the advantages that breast milk is free. Milk is only free if we are assuming that maternal work – and women’s time for instance – have no value.

Vacas (Cows), 2020, Vacas series, acrylic and oil pastel on canvas, 130×160 cm

Curator: You are constantly exploring the possibility of human naked body, especially the female body. What does the “body” mean to you?

Luisa: If I can do anything in this world it has to be through my own body, so this is a strong and inevitable subject for me. My body, as a woman living in this society, is by itself a political matter. All human bodies are from early ages conditioned to behave and appear in certain ways. There are a lot of social conventions about what an ideal body looks like and also a lot of pressure for trying to achieve it. In my work, I attempt to create disrupted bodies that in some way defies that idealistic forms: bodies with their insides out, bodies that have been murdered, bodies that don’t conform. I frequently work with images of female sexualized bodies because women (and this includes mothers!) are sexual beings, all though they are not allowed to express it in the same way that men are. At the same time that I am right now in the final steps of launching my first porn-video art together with great fellow artists, I am terrified that this could someday be used against me in a court for the guard of my daughter or something likewise. I have a body that is very much alive and has a lot of desire for experiences in itself so I don’t know if I could ever escape this subject as an artist.

Cria (Foal), 2019, Vacas series, oil on wood, 100x65x2 cm

Luisa: If women are underrepresented, mothers have even less representation. If women get censored and judged, mothers are even more. A maternal body is a body that creates another body and nourishes it until out of the womb. Maternal bodies inhabit this society that perpetuate a romanticized vision, just as the Madonna col Bambino, at the same time that disapproves those that breastfeed in public. Motherhood is set up as something every woman should aim for but at the same time it represents in a way the end of a life. You quit being a woman to start being a mother. Mothers cannot be sexual beings, mothers cannot curse, mothers cannot go out to drink or attend parties – but we still do.

There is a lot of pressure and people telling what you are supposed to do. In that sense, I deal with motherhood in my artwork in the same way I treat femininity and pink. I try to stretch and overstate those things that my roles in society tells me I should, in a way for them to become absurd.

Fetos (gêmeos) [Fetuses (twins)], 2019, oil on canvas, 155×120 cm

Curator: The Fetos Series imagines and depicts different fetuses. What experience or thought initially drove you to choose this artistic expression?

Luisa: I actually started painting and drawing images of babies and fetuses way before I was pregnant. I had an experience when I was very young in a museum that had several fetuses in jars on a big shelf. Some of them had malformation issues such as siameses, ciclopes, missing members or more members than they should have. I am until today both traumatized and obsessed with this memory. I never went to that museum again because I fear that reality would disappoint me and rather stick with a distorted childhood memory that I can create works about.

Romã (Pomegranete), 2020, oil pastel on paper, 30×30 cm

Curator: The artistic style of your paintings is bright, bold, and with great visual effect. How did this style generate?

Luisa: I use color in order to somehow attenuate the impact of the subjects that I deal with. If I painted a dead baby using colors such as black and red the painting would be unbearable. I am unsure if I could even paint them like this or if it would get too heavy to handle. The explicit images of violence are difficult to look at, we usually have an urge to look away when we are confronted with them. Using bright and bold colors and a lot of pink I feel that I can approach difficult subjects without losing my interlocutor that fast.

M(ama), 2017, impression of the breasts of 28 women fabric, gouache, sewing, 300×200 cm

Curator: For me, the juxtaposition of the work Pomegranate and M(ama) is quite interesting, as Pomegranate is reminiscent of M(ama) in terms of appearance and metaphorical meaning of fertility. What is the message behind M(ama)?

Luisa: Despite all the use of pink, soft and bright colors in my artworks, the message behind them are usually not that lighthearted. I’ve made the work M(ama) back in 2017 when my daughter was only 4 months old and was still exclusively breastfed. Breastfeeding is beautiful but also really consuming energy and timewise, for times I felt like a pair of breasts walking around. Also, there are a lot of people that give you bad glances when you are breastfeeding in public. How come it is completely accepted for a man to walk around shirtless and whenever I have to take my breasts out in order to feed a crying hungry baby society makes me feel uneasy about it? The breasts are a great symbol for the feminine and are directly related both to motherhood and sexuality. Breasts are both sacred and profane. Breasts are authorized when required to a man’s pleasure, but banned when they “only” attend what the woman who owns them wants. Breasts are supposed to be molded in order to fit the standard (Brasil is the country with the most surgical procedures and breast augmentation is the second on the list). Breasts must be hidden so that they do not pay attention to modesty. When I gathered those 28 women to collaborate with this work I asked them to put their breasts out.

Final Exhibit Notes: For recent interest, Luisa says:” I am now researching the theory of continuous bodies and the space in between object and abject. Attempting to create visual representations of those concepts, I’m making some artworks that intend to present a body conceived through experiences rather than functionality. I am especially interested in the duality of feminine and grotesque. Motherhood is a recurring theme that I am likely to keep working on. Lately, I have been working on some series dealing with knives and blood. Also, as I already gave some spoilers before, I am really looking forward to launching a porn/video that is on the final way of making.”

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