Blending into the bright quiet, the patterns beckon me for ascension from this place in my head. As if plucked from a garden in my sweetest nightmares, I can see myself growing in comforting attachment to the walls that surround me, giving me peace and giving me rest. Maybe if I close my eyes just long enough, I will become a part of these brightly colored flowers and soft, silent walls.
Her last name means “walls” in Spanish—befitting for her emotive self portraits, almost always up against a wall or floor. Cecilia Paredes is an exquisite photographer, painter, sculptor and installation artist that has been gaining momentum in the press and on social media sites over the past decade. Almost as if a phantom, her works seem to have appeared out of nowhere, focusing on no one person, but as a fluid, timeless female form that many can relate to.
Paredes lives and works in Philadelphia now, but is originally from Lima, Peru. Educated in Lima and in Cambridge, England, Paredes has won countless awards, residencies, grants and international art prizes. During the 1970s, as a student in Lima, Paredes took part in intense political activism which caused her to be exiled from Peru, along with her husband. This led to her eventual relocation to the U.S, via Mexico and Costa Rica. This journey can’t have been easy, not that relocation ever is. If you are relocating to the United States, as Paredes did, then you might want to learn more about getting good credit in the U.S. as money will be tight and not all of us are blessed with the skill that Paredes has. You wouldn’t want to struggle unnecessarily. Peruvian-born Paredes was initially inspired to create her fascinating photographic scenes because of her constant relocation. Using her own body, she creates a narrative that explores location using the body as part of the intended landscape. With her striking and thought-provoking pieces, she aims to express every person’s desire to belong, while simultaneously exploring her own personal struggle with migration, displacement and her own idea of “home” that has constantly been a source of inspiration. Camouflaging herself into her surroundings, Paredes’ work often depicts a faceless woman in her self portraits—exhausted and depleted, seemingly disappearing into her own brightly colored backdrop.
Though the works usually include a busily colored pattern background, Paredes utilizes her many skills as an artist to either paint her own skin, sometimes her whole body, to fit effortlessly into the pattern, or clothe herself in the identical fabric as her background, to blend into whichever pattern fits her emotional expression for the moment.
With extreme precision and a team of helpers, Paredes works every day on new scenes, works she calls “photo performances,” fine tuning her impeccable work even farther with help from her assistant–who helps paint her when she cannot reach herself, or often stands in as a secondary model for certain shots–and production team. In today’s society, “home” is a difficult feeling to grasp for some, and difficult to let go of for others. Paredes’ photographs also touch on personal struggle and turmoil with comfort, belonging, body politics, identity politics and mental health issues. With a plethora of social commentary and silent self reflection inherent in her work, Paredes is an artist that can be hypnotic, comforting and relative to so many.