4 April 2024

Blood Memory

Cándida González constellates connections
between the Midwest and Puerto Rico


by Kate Mothes

“I have always enjoyed creating altars in my home from an early age—general altars or altars dedicated to a specific thing or energy,” says Minneapolis-based artist Cándida González. Their detailed installations draw on the interconnections between family history, cultural heritage, and a sense of belonging between two distant locales: Minnesota and Puerto Rico. “I think that anything is an altar if it is an intentionally-made space serving to honor something that you consider sacred,” the artist says.

In their solo exhibition Blood Memory at Public Functionary in Minneapolis, González explores the diasporic experience, digging into spiritual and cultural ties to a place far from their current home. That separation spurred an installation for which the show is named, conceived during pandemic quarantine in 2020 when travel plans were curtailed.

The artist began thinking of ways to bridge the experience of being stuck in the house in Minneapolis with being in Puerto Rico, drawing on the healing power of memory and affinity for her body and spirit during a challenging time. A statement for the show asks, “For people living in diaspora, particularly the Puerto Rican diaspora, how do we connect to blood memories through objects and sensorial experiences when we are miles away from our ancestral homes?”

González employs the motif of an altar or shrine as a means of celebrating and commemorating their ancestors; a way of showing love and respect through a space that invites reflection. Through autobiographical collages, the artist merges self portraits and other snapshots with found imagery of landscapes, motifs evocative of Puerto Rico, and astrological and divination symbols.

The printed collages are often arranged on shelves or furniture along with candles, record albums, food, rocks and sand, and other trinkets. Visitor participation is central to the artist’s installations, which are often accompanied by handwritten notes that invite people to sit among a variety of objects and touch or hold them, invoking personal memories and associations.

In February of this year, González’s partner Paige Coletti, died of cancer, deeply affecting the artist’s approach to Blood Memory, which they describe in a recent interview in MPLSArt: “I wanted to make sure that I was making space for my grief, not just pushing aside my grief to push through with the show and create the things for the show,” they said, continuing:

I realized what I already knew, which is that art helps emotions move through our body. In order to be an artist, you must be emotionally, physically, and spiritually aware of what is happening in your body. I’m creating things with my hands, and so that is also giving my mind space, and my body space, to be thinking about Paige and thinking about how these emotions are showing up in my art.

The invitational nature of González’s work marks an enthusiasm for sharing with others and participating in a communal simultaneously personal and universal process of learning and healing.

The artist has always been inspired by the text work Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole by Lawrence Weiner, which was acquired by the Walker Art Center in the early 1990s. “My work is rooted in the idea that every finished work is its own complete spell created by a unique combination of different elements. Those elements could be reused in a different combination to create another completely distinct spell,” González says, puzzling an array of components together in endlessly varied amalgamations.

While making the work, the artist thinks a lot about relationships between color theory, symbolism, spirituality, and metaphysical practices like numerology, astrology, tarot, and spiritualism. “Every element that I add into a collage or mixed media installation has its own meaning and significance,” the artist says. “I enjoy collage and assemblage because it allows me to play with the same elements multiple times in different contexts.”

Blood Memory continues through April 13. Find more on the artist’s website and Instagram.

All images © Cándida González, courtesy of the artist and Public Functionary

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