ArtEliam Coro

Mariana Monteagudo

ArtEliam Coro
Mariana Monteagudo

For Mariana Monteagudo, Venezuelan-born sculptor, art isn’t something to be set aside after the completion of the latest project. No, art and her daily life “are so entangled that [it] is almost impossible to separate one from the other,” she said.

This intertwined relationship of creation and life keeps her bound to the search for sources of inspiration, which is beautiful in and of itself to her, she said. “I draw my inspiration from virtually anything… If I go to the supermarket for juice, for example, I might find an interesting shape in the juice bottle itself and use it later on,” Monteagudo said.

Having two generations of matriarchal ceramicists to look to for guidance, Monteagudo developed an attraction to turning her imaginations into tangible objects. She practiced this regularly by bringing her fantasies to life and making her own toys out of recycled materials like cardboards and wooden carts.

From home-made kites and puppets, Monteagud moved on to create works that range in references “from pre-Colombian art or Japanese Manga, to the latest collection of Jeremy Scott,” she said.   

Her ultimate goal is to draw from these vastly different sources, like medieval armors and samurai aesthetic, and combine and contrast them until the boundaries between the subjects are completely indiscernible. “After my work is done, they end up fused into something completely sui generis,” Monteagudo said.

She constantly creates “sui generis,” or unique, muñecas made from a formula of paper mache and hard latex, perfected after an arduous, but ultimately fun, process as she transitioned from her ceramic medium in Colombia to something more practical in her new Miami home.

Each of her dolls is infused with her playful and curious spirit, which peers through to its onlookers through the doll’s piercing eyes. Her latest series, featured in the Second Chances exhibition at the Mac Fine Art Gallery in Ft.

Lauderdale until November 29, is Uncanny. Monteagudo includes in her definition of the word a use of the word that places the muñecas as the cause of such strange and unsettling feelings- “an uncanny feeling that she was being watched.”

They are truly uncanny, standing eerily still, gazing straight ahead in their elaborate costumes. Each doll is different; One piece is a set of twins joined at the cheeks while another doll’s dreadlocks hang well past the torso and the cap is pulled over the eyes of another doll, keeping it from staring at its audience along with its siblings.

Her creations are her companions as she opens innumerable doors to new paths and continues developing her work. “I’ve always believed that the moment an artist thinks he has made “the” masterpiece, he is killing his own art,” she said. For Monteagudo, developing art is integral to her daily living, making it impossible to ever cease creating.

During her 20 years of making muñecas she has constantly pushed her limits, achieving recognition from both peers and art critics internationally. In 2014, Monteagudo’s work won first prize at the Tequila Herradura Barrel Art. In 21 days, she made the biggest piece of her career and transformed a life-size tequila barrel into her own magical creation, gaining recognition in a completely new environment, which was especially important to her as an immigrant, she said.

Her spirit is one that never fades or diminishes even when the line between art and her life has blurred. “I see myself in 30 years as the happiest old lady making my own art passionately,” she said.