An artist you don’t see everyday

Yes, I realise that all artists are unique and, therefore, they’re all “artists you don’t see everyday”. But let me tell you about this one in particular. You may have heard something about a Portuguese artist exhibiting in Versailles in 2012. Not only was she the first woman ever to have works exhibited there, she was also the first Portuguese citizen to do so. Meet Joana Vasconcelos!

Joana Vasconcelos was born in Paris in 1971, but she studied in Lisbon and is still based there. Her works will often, but not always, be big and bold. She takes objects from our normal everyday lives and creates something new with them: something with a message, great visual impact and colour. Take, for example, “The Bride”, one of my favourite works from her: when you look at it, standing a few meters from it, it looks like a big chandelier, but… there’s something odd about it. And then you come closer and realise it’s made of tampons!
“The Bride”: 5 meter-high piece made with 25.000 tampons. I’m glad I didn’t have to put all that together!
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Obviously she has a team of people working with her to bring to life her ideas and creations. How else could you make two huge stilettos from stainless steel pots and lids? Or hang a ginormous crochet quilt from the D. Luís bridge in Porto?
“Varina”: a public space installation suspended in the D. Luís I bridge in Porto. It’s a 15×35 meters piece of hand made crochet: Varina was the name given to the women who used to sell fish on the streets.
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This year Joana Vasconcelos will be representing Portugal in the Venice Biennale with “Trafaria Praia”. This will be an old kind of ferry boat, called cacilheiro, that used to connect Lisbon and Trafaria (across the Tagus) which has undergone major changes and will be like a floating pavilion, with art both on the inside and on the outside. The outside of this ferry (built in 1960) will have hand-painted ceramic tiles (azulejos, of course!) and the inside will have an amazing display of objects created with crochet in tones of blue and white mingled with LEDs that will make it look like you’re deep down in the ocean. You can check both her website for the Venice event or her Facebook page (half Portuguese, half English) for more details about it.
“Marilyn”: two piece sculpture with 297x155x410cm, created with hundreds of stainless steel pans and lids.
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Her works have been in exhibitions in many countries but being in Versailles was, obviously, something very big.  Despite being the first Portuguese, the first woman and the youngest contemporary artist to have her works there the whole thing was not without some “hiccups”. Her work “The Bride”, for example (mentioned above), was censored (Boooo, France!) and considered “inadequate” for Versailles. I think Versailles needs to relax a little…
“Vitrail”: tapestry inspired by the Castelo Branco embroideries and made in collaboration with the Manufactura de Tapeçarias de Portalegre (346 x 367 cm)
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Even if she can somehow look eccentric with some of her dress choices (aren’t all artists somehow eccentric?) she has a laid back attitude, living with her husband and child in a flat in Lisbon. You can have a peek at a day in her life here (this series of photos is part of a photography project): Joana Vasconcelos with her baby; brushing her cat, Ming; family breakfast; her day at work; meeting with fashion designer Filipe Faísca (who conceived her dress for the opening of the Versailles exhibition); Joana with her mom and her baby; end of the day, playing with the baby.

Hope one day you’ll have the opportunity to see the works of this amazing artist!


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