Born in the Dominican Republic, Raquel Paiewonsky is a mixed media artist interested in the ways that our “primal” selves respond to and develop within constantly evolving urban environments. The abject is a large theme in Paiewonsky’s installations, which often display mutilated or ‘mutated’ familiar objects such as dolls, fake nails and articles of clothing. Reified body parts are symbolic of failure to adhere to social standards of ‘normalcy’ as well as the difficulties of identity building, due in part to residual attitudes of cultural inferiority in post-colonial regions as well as the oppressive nature of stereotypes.
As a result of this frustration, violence is also a prevalent theme. Severed limbs, such as the many beeswax feet hanging from pantyhose in Levitando a Solo un Pie (2003), dangle from the ceiling. Gravity plays an integral part in many of Paiwonsky’s works; it acts as punisher, rendering its objects immobile, unable to move forward (or backward for that matter).
Another installation, Muro (2009), features a wall covered in hundreds of breast-like sacks of different types of material. The sacks stretch toward the ground, reminding us of the effect of gravity on the body as we age. There is a component of horror to all of Paiewonsky’s works; removed from the context of the body, the sheer volume of ‘breasts’ heaped atop each other produces the same mix of attraction and revulsion that one gets when looking at, say, a photograph of the thousands of skulls stacked atop each other in the Paris catacombs.
Paiewonsky infuses ambivalence into all of her projects; the viewer is constantly caught between fascination and repulsion, wanting to identify the ‘parts’ that make up the assembled bodies yet perhaps unwilling to get too close. The mutilated bodies are rendered vulnerable, and they use this very mutilation to hide the secrets of their experiences from the prying gaze of the spectator. To visit the artist’s website, click here