The Path of the Heart
Like a subversive valentine, a small, red paper heart hangs on a wall with a message written in messy pink paint: No necesito nada del primer mundo. “I don’t need anything from the first world.” This work, made from an Argentinian newspaper and pesos, is emblematic of Fernanda Laguna‘s 30-year practice using low-art mediums and feminine motifs to engage with gender, sexuality, economic disparity and pertinent political issues. Foregrounding these concerns, her powerful exhibition “The Path of the Heart” at the Drawing Center connects Laguna’s artistic practice with her work as an activist and community organizer.
The show begins with a loose chronology of the artist’s work from the mid-90s, when Laguna’s cheeky feminine visuals are most apparent—as in three painted copies of vintage illustrations depicting young girls and a quirky painting of a girlish alien within a bizarre geometric space. While endearing, the works preface Laguna’s later practice: seemingly light-hearted images of smiling hearts, flowers and stars made with commonly found materials. Many read like pages from personal diaries with multicolored motivational messages, such as SOLO VEO LO HERMOSO (“I ONLY SEE THE BEAUTIFUL”), done with cheap markers on lined paper.
Despite the exhibition’s emphasis on paper works, Laguna is truly a multimedia artist: She sourced craft materials, like cutesy stickers, to create a cardboard diorama of a pink bedroom. She produced textile works that sprout fuzzy yarn roses. She made paintings where closed eyes cry cascading waterfalls of gold glitter. Laguna’s media reject masculine-coded aesthetics and imbue ostensibly “unartistic” elements with preciousness and meaning.
Throughout, the artist’s lively vernacular has a political tone. A zine featuring two women 69ing promotes Belleza y Felicidad; founded by Laguna in 1999, the gallery and community space was a touchstone for women and queer artists in Buenos Aires to gather and show their work. The downstairs gallery further explores Laguna’s community work by chronicling her activism. In particular, High in the Tide: Diary of a Feminist Revolution (2015–present) provides a living timeline of the artist’s work organizing protests against rising conservatism in Latin America. Fernanda Laguna thus finds meaning through her delightful energy and humor while reminding us that such joyful dispositions should never come at the cost of serious and sustained political engagement. —Bryan Martin
Fernanda Laguna, Amor (Love), 2000. Mixed media on canvas, 14 3/16 x 18 1/8 inches. Grupo Supervielle Collection, Buenos Aires. Photograph by Viviana Gil