In light of shadows

At last, Inma Barrero’s reflective body of work appears in all its delicate beauty. Of all the series, the latest work comes to embody the deepest reflection of her research on fragility. Barrero’s personal iconography is made of flowers full of rococo exuberance tempered by a baroque religious gravitas. The artist is herself somewhat of the same make. She has stayed a southern Spaniard despite her move decades ago to the United States. Of her work, the first impression endures: the beauty. Yet, something more important hides underneath; a confession dressed with the poetics of the objet trouve and the metaphorical ardor of a surrealist.

The work is made of dark wire and white porcelain. Standing, suspended or anchored, weaved wire cages of diverse forms hold in their centers bouquets of porcelain flowers. The cages are crafted tightly, their nets closing on their fragile captives. The flowers are feminine to an extreme, fine, pale and thin, usually grouped, seldom alone. They are portrayed in all states of being: from fresh to wilted. Some stems have thorns, some do not. They give out the feel of reliquaries. They are ageless, precious and a bit ghostly.

In some pieces, a glass bell covers small flower clusters, hanging from metallic creepers. They seem to be of a wilder specimen than the ones in cages. The pieces gently swing in the room’s light, casting shadows on their surroundings. A chime- like sound rings in so doing. The pieces are designed consciously in light of the shadows. Things of a material nature dematerialize. Their mystical doppelgangers form silhouettes on the walls, their ink shades stain the floor. The silhouetted deep shadows open a world of dark poetical matter.

The silhouette of a double gourd shape stands out in the collection of work. The wire curves into feminine volumes. Blooms grow out of its body and create elegant shadows. The metallic bodice calls to mind a couture mannequin, something familiar to Barrero, whose mother was a clothing designer. The hybrid figure is completely biomorphic. It stands on its own, in the midst of cages and glass containers, next to fragmented flowers spreading their petals in wide circles. A world of white and gray, of hanging and growing forms animated in the light of shadows. The gathering of Barrero’s work resembles a surrealist botanical ensemble.

Barrero speaks of the intimate connections between her work and life. Her desire to bring beauty into the world, and the impossibility of holding back the depth of meaning she wants to contribute. Her creativity belongs to the lineage of surrealist women. Artists like Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo and Frida Kahlo, all struggling to bring forward their self, shedding light on their shadows.

Sometimes working with light is all about shadows. Sometimes working with the decorative is all about inner feelings. This is not a contradiction, merely a paradox.

Duality held side by side is the matter of most things. The astonishing resilience of our nature is matched by the extraordinary fragility of our lives. Much of the complexity of our human trajectories defines itself within these two boundaries, one pulling toward life, one flirting with death. Inma Barrero is familiar with both, and her work is an everyday meditation that gets her closer to the totality of its experience. 

— Barbara Stehle