Poeta y Leopardo de Nieve, 1969 (printed 2022) Serigraph on Fabriano paper 39.25 x 27.5 inches (paper) 99.7 x 69.9 cm Edition of 50 Signed, titled, and numbered on bottom
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Printed in Bogotá, Colombia by Arte Dos Gráfico
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Cecilia Vicuña was born in 1948 in Santiago, Chile and now lives and works in New York. Her critically-acclaimed work integrates poetry, performance, Conceptualism, and textile craft in response to pressing concerns of the modern world, including ecological destruction, human rights, and cultural homogenization.
Born and raised in Santiago, she was exiled during the early 1970s after the violent military coup against President Salvador Allende. A sense of impermanence and a desire to preserve and pay tribute to the Indigenous history and culture of Chile have characterized her work throughout her career.
Vicuña’s surreal figurative paintings of the 1970s are explicitly personal and political. Poeta y Leopardo de Nieve (2022) is based on the artist’s 1969 painting by the same name, which is in the collection of the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas.
Vicuña painted this work following a visit to the San Francisco Zoo with Chilean artist and writer Claudio Bertoni, where they saw a snow leopard who appeared angry and hurt by his state of captivity. Vicuña recalls that, after watching him for some time, the leopard became pleased at the attention she paid him and began to perform for her, leaping through the air.
When Bertoni and Vicuña returned to Chile, Claudio wrote a poem titled Snow Leopard that described this regal animal in captivity. Leopardo de Nieve is a painting of Bertoni’s poem. Vicuña depicts the leopard holding an open book of poetry in his left hand while placing his hand over his heart with his right. From his ear grows a vine, symbolizing the growth of new ideas that are transcribed onto the page in the form of a poem. Vicuña includes herself as a barely visible red dot standing in the castle on the bottom left of the canvas.
Vicuña first exhibited this painting at the National Museum in Santiago in 1977.
In 2023, Vicuña is the subject of solo exhibitions at Tate Modern in London, MOCA Tucson in Arizona, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile, and the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires. In 2022, she was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale.