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Elvira Smeke (Mexico, 1978) is an artist trained as an art historian and photographer. She is currently a multidisciplinary artist exploring sculpture, painting, drawing, installation,photography and video. She uses everyday materials, specifically objects of domestic use, as well as found objects such as tree leaves and stones. She also uses delicate objects like lace, but combines them with materials that are mainly used by men, creating both a tension between them, and also a harmonious fusion.

Smeke’s critical route in her work hinges on a feminist philosophy, with an important influence from Simone de Beauvoir, Hélène Cixous and the gender issues posed by Judith Butler. In addition, she reaches into literature, the use of language and writing. Her work also has an ecological facet from the point of view of the Anthropocene theory.

Smeke analyzes what it means to be a woman in our contemporary era, evoking ideologies and tasks imposed on women throughout history, but recapturing them from the perspective of the joy of being a woman. Her work touches on the problematic of feminicide and the suffering of women in a phallogocentric society.

On the other hand, her work is performative. She takes long walks and sometimes collects found objects which she uses as a starting point to create, uses her own body as a form, uses her own life to tell a story and is aware of what she calls the accident: which is the uncontrolled resulting part of an action.

Elvira Smeke (Mexico, 1978) es una artista que tuvo su formación como fotógrafa e historiadora del arte. Actualmente es una artista multidisciplinaria que explora la escultura, la pintura, el dibujo, la instalación, la fotografía, el video y el arte-objeto. Sus materiales son objetos domésticos de uso cotidiano, así como materiales de recuperación como son las hojas de árbol y piedras. También utiliza objetos delicados como el encaje y los combina con materiales que son esencialmente utilizados por los varones, creando una tensión entre éstos y una fusión armoniosa.

La ruta crítica de la obra de Smeke se articula desde la filosofía feminista, principalmente de Simone de Beauvoir y Hélène Cixous y la problemática de género planteada por Judith Butler. Asimismo, tiene acercamiento a la literatura, el uso del lenguaje y la escritura. Su obra también tiene un aspecto ecológico, de respeto a la naturaleza e inclinada a la filosofía del Antropoceno que busca equidad entre todos los seres, logrando un total equilibrio.

Smeke hace un análisis de lo qué es ser mujer en la era contemporánea, retomando ideologías y quehaceres impuestos a la mujer a través de la historia, retomándolos desde el gozo de ser mujer. La otra cara de su obra se basa en la problemática del feminicidio y el sufrimiento de la mujer dentro de una sociedad falogocéntrica. Busca hacer una conciencia sobre esta problemática aun vigente en nuestras sociedades contemporáneas.

Por otro lado, su obra es performática. Hace largas caminatas y recolecta objetos que halla, los cuales utiliza como punto de partida para la creación de nuevas piezas. Utiliza su cuerpo como forma, utiliza su propia vida para contar una historia y presta especial atención a lo que ella llama “el accidente”, el cual es el resultado incontrolable que resulta a partir de una acción.

Education

  1998 – Colegio Americano de Fotografia Ansel Adams; Mexico City, Mexico.
  2003 – Bachelor’s degree in visual arts, Academia de Artes Visuales (AAVI); Mexico City, Mexico.
  2007 – Workshop in Portrait and history of portraiture, Academia de Artes visuales (AAVI); México City, Mexico.
  2009 – Bachelor’s degree in Art History, Instituto de Cultura Superior; Mexico City, Mexico.
  2009 – Bachelor’s degree in Art History, Instituto de Cultura Superior; Mexico City, Mexico.
  2016 – Diploma in Contemporary Art, Museo Jumex; Mexico City, Mexico.
  2017 – Diploma in Gender Studies, UM Dartmouth.
  2018 – Diploma in Philosophy, Universidad Iberoamericana; Mexico City, Mexico.
  2019 – Diploma in Contemporary Philosophy, Instituto de Cultura Superior; Mexico City, Mexico.

Solo Shows

2019I AM NOW NAKED, PR20, curated by Alberto Ríos de la Rosa; Mexico City, Mexico.
2017Yo soy antes, yo soy casi, yo soy nunca, Museo de Arte de Sonora (MUSAS), curated by Octavio Avendaño; Hermosillo, Mexico.
2016Distorsión, Centro Israelita de México; Ciudad de México, Mexico.
2015Desvelar, Kaah Siis; Ciudad de México, México.
2011Between the dots, Aventura Lakes, curated by Flor Broitman; Florida, USA.
2010Yes, Aventura Lakes, Florida, USA.
2009Despertares, Ex-convento de San Hipólito; Mexico City, Mexico.
2007Música y luz, Ex-convento de San Hipólito; Mexico City, Mexico.

Group Shows (selection)

2019
Foto México, LMI Gallery; Mexico City, Mexico.
Laberintos, Casa de la Cultura San Rafael; Mexico City, Mexico.
Epifanía de los sentidos, Galería L; Mexico City, Mexico.
12 horas, Mártires de la conquista; Mexico City, Mexico.
Piso, Mártires de la conquista; Mexico City, Mexico.

2018
Masters, Latitud Polanco, curated by Octavio Avendaño; Mexico City, Mexico.

2017
Details, Marco Antonio Patrizio Gallery; Padova, Italy.
Feminicidio en México YA BASTA, Museo Memoria y Tolerancia; Mexico City, Mexico.
AyudARTE, Centro Sefaradí; Mexico City, Mexico.
Híbrido, Monte Líbano 930, Mexico City, Mexico.

2016
Proyecto Medellín, Galería Jimena Carranza; Mexico City, Mexico.
Por las calles de Amsterdam, Amsterdam 70; Mexico City, Mexico.

2015
Colecciones, Festival Internacional de Fotografía, AAVI; Mexico City, Mexico.
Commffest Festival; Toronto, Canadá.
Curadurías, Centro Cultural Luis Nishisawa; Estado de México, Mexico.
Entre Líneas, Casa de Cultura Puebla; Puebla, Mexico.Nueva, Cárcamo Gallery; Monterrey, Mexico.

2007
El común, Academia de Artes Visuales; Mexico City, Mexico.

2005
Yo estoy, FotoSeptiembre, AAVI Academia de Artes Visuales; Mexico City, Mexico.

Art Fairs

2020Zona Maco, LMI Gallery; Mexico City, Mexico.
2019 Pinta Miami, IK Projects Gallery; Florida, USA.
2017Arte Genova, Galeria Marco Antonio Patrizio; Genova, Italy.
2016JustMad, Proyectos especiales; Madrid, Spain

Prizes

2005 – Mención honorífica, FotoSeptiembre por el proyecto de auto-retrato Yo estoy.

Artist Statement

I am Elvira Smeke and I am an artist born and based in Mexico City.  

I started doing photography 21 years ago, and practiced it for 16 years.

It was 5 years ago that I read an article about feminicide in Mexico and gender violence. This article really moved me so I decided I should start talking about these problems in my art. In that moment I started studying Feminist Philosophy and Gender Studies. All of this made me ask myself:

What does it mean to be a woman?
What is the female body?
Why are we called the second sex?
And why do we us women don’t have a definition that doesn’t derive from men?

In this stage I stopped doing photography and became a multidisciplinary artist, but wasn’t interested in using common materials, so I started working with everyday house objects like soap and thread, and also resumed work that has been assigned to women since a couple hundred years ago like embroidery, typing and sewing. I also work with leaves that fall from trees and use them in many ways: as fabric to make a dress, as paper to type on, or sometimes I use them to represent female bodies. Working with these materials is delicate, thorough and mostly tight, as I like to call it, because of the fragility of the materials, there can’t be a minimal error in the process and I have to be 100% focused in what I am doing. 

This tightness made me rethink art and started working in a different way. I wanted to set myself free from my own tightness. So, I started experimenting art from a different angle. I now walk a lot and sometimes collect found objects that I use as a starting point to create, I use my own body as a form, use my own life to tell a story and I am aware of what I call the accident: which is the uncontrolled resulting part of an action. 

I still work with leaves, but also with stones, which I discovered, are amazing because they absorb the energy, the sounds and history around them, so they are like little parts of the city I pick them up. I use delicate objects like lace, but combine them with materials that are mainly used by men, trying to fuse them in peace, just like men and women should. 

I think that us artists are the barometers of society and are the ones who absorb reality and translate it in a poetic way to be shown to others. Art gives the less fortunate, the invisible and the unprotected, both visibility and voice. Art is able to imagine a new world where there can be a change.  

But art is nothing if it’s not shared.