Marta María Pérez Bravo

Marta María Pérez Bravo (born 1959) is a Cuban artist who is best known for her black-and-white self-portraiture, in which she often uses her own body as the central subject-object to express her own belief in - and practice of - Afro-Cuban religions, particularly Santeria and Palo Monte. Much of her art is informed by this practice, and engages with the themes of ritual, motherhood and femininity, expressed through the highly stylized posing of her body, which is placed in relation to personally and ritually significant objects in her self-portraits. Pérez Bravo initially studied painting in Havana at the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts (1979) and the Instituto Superior de Arte (1984). Although she studied painting while at the Instituto Superior de Arte, she became interested in photography while working on her senior thesis at the latter, and has primarily used this medium since. She lived in Havana until 1995 when she moved to Monterrey, Mexico, with her family, where she currently resides and works. Pérez Bravo was part of a generation of Cuban artists born immediately following the Cuban Revolution and was one of those who went into exile following the collapse of the Special Period at the end of the 1980s. Pérez Bravo’s work has immense personal meaning, reflecting as it does her life and beliefs, but has also been interpreted as having a broader significance. Her portraiture, for its extensive use of Afro-Caribbean religious symbols, has been viewed as a protest against the marginalization or folklorization of Afro-Cuban traditions, done through the artist’s exploration of her own identity in depictions of her literally embodied experiences of race, gender, and ethnicity. Peréz Bravo’s exploration of identity challenges notions of colonialism, racism, and patriarchal authority as she attempts to combine the social, political, cultural, historical, and popular aspects of her own personal experiences in her portraiture. Bravo’s work has been displayed all over the world including Cuba at the IV Havana Bienal, the V Istanbul Biennial in Turkey and the Kwangju Biennale in South Korea. Her work has been also included in many museum exhibitions such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museo del Barrio, New York, Museum of Contemporary Art, Brisbane, Australia, Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany, Muesarnok Museum, Budapest, Hungary, Alejandro Otero Museum of Visual Arts, Caracas, Venezuela, Winnipeg Art Gallery and the National Art Gallery in Ottawa, Canada, Menil Collection in Houston, Louisiana Museum for Moderne Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, Wichita Art Museum, Kansas, Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Mead Museum of Art, Amherst, Massachusetts, Miami Art Museum, Florida, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

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