Great Paintings: Virgen Negra by Marta Pérez
Puerto Rican artist Marta Pérez is known for her lavish, allegorical paintings. Her work draws on the bright and vibrant motifs of Caribbean culture and on her own cultural heritage (Pérez has connections to Basque, Jewish, Greek, and Irish culture).
Virgen Negra -which loosely translates to Black Madonna-is perhaps my favorite Pérez painting. As the title suggests, the painting depicts the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child on her lap. The mother and son are surrounded by a bizarre landscape of ghostly blue trees, purple fish, and a magenta sky. The pose of the Madonna and Child suggests that Pérez may be referencing the Black Madonna of Montserrat, one of the most important spiritual icons in Spain.
Such a reference suggests that Pérez is exploring the way European Christianity has come to function in the Caribbean. Her landscape is an allegorical representation of the multicultural world created by the transcontinental exchange of European imperialism.
Alternatively, it is possible that the Madonna is simply intended to be a Caribbean version of the Virgin Mary, rejecting the Western beauty standards that usually dominate paintings of the Madonna. Thus, Virgen Negra represents a reappropriation of European culture. The painting transforms an aspect of Western culture into a symbol of Caribbean vitality and fertility (as suggested by the flowers that grow between the Virgin’s feet). Pérez explores a similar idea in her painting La Virgen del Café.
The piece is executed in bright, almost neon colors, with the hands and faces of Mary and Christ standing out in black. Color is one of the most important aspects of Pérez’s work, and she uses it with great success to represent Caribbean cultures.
Originally published at https://artisthesolution.blogspot.com on May 11, 2020.