Contemplative Artworks of Cicada Wings, Hair, and Thorned Branches Evoke Rebirth and Change

“Velo de luto (Mourning veil)” (2020), magicicada wings, sewn with hair, 32 x 47 x 2 inches. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman. All images © Selva Aparicio, shared with permission

Woven throughout Selva Aparicio’s cicada veils and fringed floor coverings are the complexities of rebirth, transition, and beauty’s ability to endure. Organic ephemera—human hair, thorned branches, scavenged wings—become poignant installations and smaller artworks that ruminate on a myriad of global issues, including the climate crisis and the infinite failures of the medical establishment.

Aparicio shares that her explorations of life and death began during childhood when she watched the natural world cycle through growth and decay in the woods outside of Barcelona. This lasting fascination has crystallized in the artist’s body of work, particularly in pieces like “Velo de luto (Mourning veil),” which sews together 1,365 seventeen-year cicada wings with strands of hair taken from two generations of women. The shrouds typically are worn to honor a spouse who’s died, and Aparicio notes the material and form exemplify that “as the fragility of the veil of wings decay so does the patriarchal veil of history that it represents.”

 

“Childhood Memories” (2017), hand-carved rug into utility oak wood floor, 657 square-feet. Photo by the artist

Overall, the artist says that her “practice has evolved beyond the individual to encompass environmental, social, and political activism and evoke the change and rebirth I witnesses in nature.” “Childhood rug,” for example, merges personal memory and a domestic object with larger themes of covering and exposing trauma.

Similarly, Aparicio cites her own experiences in “Hysteria,” an installation that surrounds an antique gynecological table with a curtain of thorned branches. Commenting broadly on the unjust power dynamics inherent within traditional healthcare, the artwork draws a direct correlation between the invasive and painful processes of medicine for women and their ability to bring new life into the world.

Although she spends half her time in Barcelona, Aparicio is currently in Chicago and has work on view at two locations: her piece “Hopscotch” is part of MCA’s group exhibition The Long Dream, while her solo show Hysteria is at the International Museum of Surgical Science, where the artist is in residence. Both are slated to close on January 17, 2021. Head to Instagram for glimpses into Aparicio’s process, as well.

 

“Velo de luto (Mourning veil)” (2020), magicicada wings, sewn with hair, 32 x 47 x 2 inches. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

“Childhood Memories” (2017), hand-carved rug into utility oak wood floor, 657 square-feet. Photo by the artist

“Hysteria” (2020), thorn branches woven with ligature and Hamilton obstetric table from 1931, 9 x 4 x 6 feet. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

“Hysteria” (2020), thorn branches woven with ligature and Hamilton obstetric table from 1931, 9 x 4 x 6 feet. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

“Velo de luto (Mourning veil)” (2020), magicicada wings, sewn with hair, 32 x 47 x 2 inches. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

“Hysteria” (2020), thorn branches woven with ligature and Hamilton obstetric table from 1931, 9 x 4 x 6 feet. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

“Hysteria” (2020), thorn branches woven with ligature and Hamilton obstetric table from 1931, 9 x 4 x 6 feet. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

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