Every other week a Puerto Rican toad called Sapo Concho, that is on the verge of extinction appears on my street squashed and crispy. Seeing el sapo concho thin as paper in front of my house is priceless. It is as if nature is offering me prime material to work with. Their deadly business is a sketch in my mind.
I am constantly searching for this kind of experience; the texture of disgust and the odd are a part of making art. The experience of seeing, touching, searching and learning from them is illuminating. Sometimes we need to escape our comfort zone, to transcend through our thoughts.
The Puerto Rican artist Elizabeth Robles works with pieces that confront this “terrible sight.” Her piece Variaciones de Verdever (2015) is a sculptural installation consisting of three parts. This piece infested with darkness reflects an uneasy state, compressing all stages of life into one work. Conversely the smell of the piece invites you to take a delightful sniff. Her sculptures are made with beeswax, wood, metal, fabric and pigment. The beeswax gives the sculptures a beautiful aroma in stark contrast with the way they look. The texture and the coloration give sense to decomposition or mutation. Robles is examining life and death, questioning your certainty and your scientific knowledge.
That sense of recognizing disgust keeps coming back in my work. An example is Perfecta (Perfect). A photograph made in 2008, it’s part of the series Las Agonías (The Agonies). It depicts a women physically ill and emotionally disturbed. In Perfecta a professional woman is vomiting, regurgitating on her own work or perhaps evidence (a folder with papers). Her frontal position is explicit as if someone is present in front of her. Maybe that is the reason for her reaction. Don’t we expose our insides on a daily basis? Do we care to see it? This scatology is a way of saying things, to search our fears, our excrement. To then throw back the unwanted, is a natural reaction, in this case for the body. When we find a beaten, raped or murdered woman in our everyday news, we also discover a hunger to know. We feel an anger and impotence, an inability to resolve the social rules of our own situation. In our quotidian state our fears materialize as the sapo concho. Sometimes the feeling is so real that we must lower ourselves and look down closely to examine the abject.