Puerto Rican artist Inés Aponte maintains to this day a professional career spanning 30 years. She’s participated in many exhibitions where she also covers diverse mediums like drawing, painting, mixed media, installation and even video. Aponte has represented Puerto Rico in several countries including Ecuador and Germany by the use and appropriation of her own images, subjects about identity construction, narrative destruction, dadaism and most importantly for Aponte, childhood references. It’s essential to know the artist’s background and why childhood references are so important for her.
Ines Aponte was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1956 and from a young age had an interest for the arts. So much, that she would go on to pursue it at college level and receive a bachelor’s on it, but at first this would be a difficult task and goal to obtain. In the decade of the 1970’s the male figure was evident, it was strong and to be respected, in this case her father. Aponte anticipating what her father’s reaction might be, she decides to pursue another career in psychology for which she obtained her first bachelor’s in 1979 from the University of Puerto Rico.
“That moment was like an experiment”Inés Aponte
A few years later, some personal family problems begin to arise and she begins to develop a sense of intuition which drove her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the arts for drawing in 1986 and in 1989 a master’s degree in painting, both degrees from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. As to how the change from psychology to the arts makes sense or how they relate Aponte, in an interview, says the following “I Recognize that these studies connect but I still don’t know how to describe it since it is something that is still in the process”. But its the everyday actions and scenes that Aponte sees after ending her academic career in Pratt Institute that would change her professional career.
After graduating Pratt Institute Aponte returns to Puerto Rico on January of 1989. She begins experimenting with materials freely, without the limitations imposed by professors, any material at the reach of her hands. One day when Aponte was with one of her two sisters, she begins observing something she believes she would have never been able to perceive without the artistic preparation she received. What she observes is her nephews play, she notices that they were just playing, they weren’t conscious about time, identity or ego. Inés describe that moment as: “It’s looking at the world with new eyes, artistic eyes, it makes you see everything differently. For me, seeing them play was like being in the now, not looking at the world with concepts and more in the immediate”. And with this her experiments turn into more jovial and free ones.
Ironically, Aponte proposes not to look at the world with concepts, but by working in this way the work itself becomes a concept.
“The purpose of bringing these childhood references in my work is that when I was developing my work, the ideas, the proposals being made at the moment by artists, colleagues and students were all the same. They were terrible, depressing, strong, negative and dark. My proposal is to bring childhood into art, with this I mean to bring innocence, lose ego, go back to playing and towards intuition. And it’s through this which results on my piece named; Estrella”-Aponte says.Inés Aponte
The piece titled Estrella made in 1994 was one of several that Aponte made through her experiments, in this case satin on paper. The piece itself was made through the process of cutting and gluing, what the artist calls “forming an image not through drawing but by construction”, taking it further than a pencil or pigment. A characteristic that would become representative of her work.
In 1999, Aponte returns to an academic career by taking a course in digital art in the University of the Sacred Heart in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“The Reason to study this type of arts is because when I was in Pratt [Institute] I took one course, it was new technology, it was very confusing even for the professors teaching these courses. And well, I always had the interest to learn it”Inés Aponte
This wouldn’t be the only course she would take. From 200-2001 she would take a course on video editing in the School of Fine Arts and Design of Puerto Rico. This new resource now provides her a new medium for her to make art. One of the artistic films made by Aponte is Harte from 2004. It shows a boy on a school desk, possibly in a classroom, where the child opens a notebook and begins chewing gum and playing with it. The gum is stretched and stuck on surfaces such as his notebook and modify it physically with a pencil. At the end the child closes the notebook and leaves from the camera’s view. The title of the film is a play on words combining the spanish words for sick (harta) and art (arte) and combines them to create the word harte. The concept is indicated at the beginning of the film where Aponte points out how art is filled with concepts that you eventually get sick of. You get sick of the the concepts, the forced concepts, the ego and that everything to do with art, you eventually get sick of..
In 2006 she would take another course on video editing but in this case focused on Final Cut Pro in Atlantic College University in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. This program would become essential for her 2011 exhibition. After finishing this course the artist retakes some of her old work and finds herself with Estrella. Now she retakes the piece but this time from a different perspective.
“The reason to retake this piece was that I was studying Buddhism and Zen. I come from a generation where Oriental philosophies were just coming to this side od the world [Occidental], for this reason if you speak or study the artists from my generation you can notice an influence that these philosophies had on them, and I too was interested on them as well. By retaking Estrella I noticed something particular about her, she was empty [hollowed] and Buddhism teaches and tries to show is that reality is empty and that a person or a being is a narrative, language. And I decide to retake it from this perspective”Inés Aponte
Interestingly Inés indicates that Estrella is a self-portrait, but shes doesn’t go into detail on how it represents her.
“Estrella has something of spectacle, of being and not being an artist, which give the piece freedom. By being a self-portrait, the creation is intimate, but by being a work of art it becomes public and creates vulnerability to the artist”Inés Aponte
But even through this, the artist continued working this piece by forming an image not through drawing but by construction, as the artist would say herself. This time for an exhibition which would open on October 20th, 2011. Each new piece containing these “dolls” [Estrella] is a murder of the previously shown, in order to give us a new image, another composition until reaching the point of not recognizing her, while still maintaining a playful and elimination from ornament. When asked about the name of the exhibition Aponte responded with the following:
“I have titled the series “Cut by the same scissors” indicating that we all are texts, languages [social constructs]. It suggests the search for the empty like a substratum of reality. What are we besides the representation of language?”Inés Aponte
The pieces presented in this exhibition not only included those made by construction but included digital photographs and film pieces as well. With these mediums Aponte established a work procedure of 3 steps, a play of the filled and the empty in what she called a process of deconstruction. All images, figures and texts passed through the 3 steps.
- Construct an image through drawing or photography.
- Empty the image or the figure by cutting through it.
- Fill it with text
images, figures and texts would go through this process of deconstruction.
Any text could have filled the figure [shapes]: I decide to appropriate those which were more relevant for me: texts of our popular culture like Games and childhood songs, religious texts, the use of text in modern and contemporary art, specially of the dada and constructivists.Inés Aponte
The works in exhibition, Los Conos Rojos, Manos Arriba Manos Abajo and Estrella #1 y #2, were created through photography and then its identity [body] is covered with black shadows and then filled with texts. Two pieces, Los Conos Rojos and Manos Arriba Manos Abajo, were taken further by combining the images with video. These two videos show the process of the figure being emptied and then being intervened by texts which run from the top to the bottom quickly.
This exhibition was presented in Puerto Rico’s Museum of Art (MAPR) in the Santurce area of San Juan, Puerto Rico, it filled the exhibit area with many works of art. Because of this Los Conos Rojos and Manos Arriba Manos Abajo joined the permanent exhibition of MAPR alongside one of Aponte’s previous digital pieces Harte.
Inés Aponte uses childhood references as a base of crucial existence. She has used this subject to develop her work in a wide variety of mediums with the goal to expand on social critiques in art and society to the point in which there can be a dialog with her interests in Oriental philosophy. All without making us sick of seeing it.