Cultural Rebels: Latinx artist Lina Puerta brings her soft revolution to East Harlem

Installation view, Migration, Nature, and the Feminine Exhibition. Image by Argenis Apolinaro, 2021.

Lina Puerta: Migration, Nature, and the Feminine

Hunter East Harlem

Through March 5th, 2022

By COCO DOLLE, February 2022

Colombian raised artist Lina Puerta’s mid-career survey exhibition “Migration, Nature, and the Feminine” displayed at Hunter East Harlem gallery spans eighteen years of her practice. Curated by Klaudia Draber, founder of non-profit organization KODA, and organized by gallery director Arden Sherman, the exhibition features an array of works created with non-traditional materials such as artificial plants, soft fabric sculptures or repurposed vintage suitcases. Throughout her career, Lina has created a tapestry of works in connection with nature and the female body. She subtly crafts her own mixed media techniques. Her compositions radiate  exotic, mysterious energy from her Latin American heritage. The audience is drawn into an elegant critique of postcolonialism through an ecofeminist lens.

Lina Puerta, Botanico Series (detail), 2019). Image by the author.

The exhibition opens with a lush wall installation of artificial plants from her Botànico Series (2019) followed by miniature delicate garden compositions presented under small glass domes of inextricable foliages, moss, beads and porcelain. In an interview with associate curator Sophia Ramirez, Lina reveals that artificial plants being generally designed in their “prime'' state are comparable to how we as society undervalue the natural cycle of life in both nature and humans. She explains that the use of artificial plants in her work is a way of deconstructing the “desirable” from our urban cultures, reclaiming a distant feel from our “ancestral landscapes”. 

Lina Puerta, Arteriole Pubescens, 2012. Image by the author.

On a center platform, her Agua Viva series (2010) takes the spotlight. Several pieces are crafted using reclaimed furniture and open vanity suitcases with miniature garden compositions. The mood is enhanced for the visitor by the sound of a soothing water fountain, providing a calm ambience. These elegant works remind us of the intimacy we once had with mother nature, a deliberate feminine touch.  

Puerta continues, building upon the intimacy with sensuality. She invokes this feeling through the female form in her earlier pieces, Sumergida and Sisterhood (2003). Further along, Puerta’s quilts and hand-made paper works are far more engaged on social justice and the displacement of the indegenous people. Highlighting human right’s issues, these reflect the laborious processes and the hardship of farmers' lives. 

Lina Puerta, Moth(her), 2020. Image by the author.

Puerta’s work falls into the global movement and legacy of Latin American artists and activists channeling their inner suffering and collective pathos or anger onto their works, from Fridah Kahlo’s surrealist paintings to Ana Mendieta’s earth-body works to most recent political activism by the public group performances of LasTesis. At the core of these movements is a desperate yearning for freedom from European imperialism, machismo, and American big-stick diplomacy. The trauma of colonialism was never resolved when flags were torn down and empires ended their rape of the region. WM

Coco Dolle

Coco Dolle is a French-American artist, writer, and curator based in New York since the late 90s. Over the past decade, she has organized numerous acclaimed exhibitions and programming for independent galleries and art fairs, including for The Untitled Space, Spring/Break Art Show, Catinca Tabacaru Gallery, 11 Newel Gallery and Select Fair Miami Art Basel. Her curatorial works and projects have been featured in high-end publications including Forbes, ArtNet, NY Observer, VICE, W Magazine and Cool Hunting. A contributing writer for Whitehot Magazine, her column Cultural Rebels is a curated series of interviews and articles on established artists including Judy Chicago, Betty Tompkins, Damien Hirst and the new generation of NFT artists. Her texts were further published in L’Officiel Art and Ravelin Magazine. As an artist, her work focuses on body politics and feminist issues. She has presented solo exhibitions at the Oregon Contemporary (OR) and Mary Ryan Gallery (NYC). Former dancer and fashion muse for acclaimed artists in the early 2000s including Alex Katz, her performances appeared in Vogue and The New York Times. While attending Louise Bourgeois' Sunday Salons, Coco developed her personal practice. She holds a Master’s degree in Arts & International Strategies from European Business School (EBS) Paris and further studied painting with Larry Poons at the Art Student’s League of New York from which she received a Grand Jury Award. Follow her on Instagram.

view all articles from this author