Slideshow: Exploring the work of Nasher Prize winner Doris Salcedo
compiled by ANNA FIALHO BYERS
During the 1990s, Salcedo did extensive field research on the toll that violence was taking on Colombia. She learned that female victims were treated with particular cruelty; shoes were often used to identify remains — especially in the context of los desaparecidos (the disappeared). In her ‘Atrabiliarios’ installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, worn shoes — primarily women’s — are encased in niches embedded in the gallery wall, then covered by a layer of stretched and preserved animal fiber affixed to the wall with medical sutures.
Minimal in nature, this untitled work from 1989-1990 is made of hospital furniture, such as cots, that have been wrapped in animal fiber. The cots, leaning against the wall, contain white shirts, wrapped like cocoons. Salcedo created this piece, as well as a series of sculptures of shirts impaled with steel stakes, in response to two massacres that took place in 1988 in northern Colombia on the banana plantations of La Negra and La Honduras.
‘Untitled,’ 1995, wooden dresser, wooden chairs with upholstery, concrete, and steel: Salcedo’s work honors the victims of violence in her home country of Colombia, and the furniture — some of which came from the homes of those killed by right-wing death squads — viscerally captures the loss of life.
‘Dismembered I’ and ‘Disremembered II’ (2014): Each of these sculptures is made of woven raw silk and nearly 12,000 needles. They developed out of years of research into what Salcedo perceives to be society’s inability to mourn. At the core of this investigation is a lack of empathy that pervades public life, in which one person’s loss is not registered by others, and instead those in mourning become stigmatized, adding to their pain.