Sonia Baez Hernandez- Body As Archive 

September 19 - November 19, 2020

WAAM is pleased to present the studio archives of Puerto-Dominican artist Sonia Baez Hernandez. Body As Archive explores the artist's relationship with the poetics of corporeal mapping and documentation and suggests that the body is ultimately a space that holds transformative possibilities. The body becomes a site where the “will to archive” predominates, as suggested by historian Andre Lepecki, where the artist confronts and examines personal, cultural and historical (re)constructions. 

The installation includes drawings, sculpture, found objects and printed material. Most of the items on view are from the installation “Carcinoma le deuil impossible”, an evolving body of work that Hernandez began in 2001 after she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  As the artist notes, “this work interweaves the experiences of my living body, history, and cultural construction of gender and ideal beauty. beauty. Breast cancer and its treatment place the body into a path of deformities, cicatrisation, transformations, and gender crisis. This experience incarnates an encounter with newness and the body as raw material.”

Each series of work produced from 2001-2006, 2008-2009 and 2013 chronologically interweaves the artist's internalization of “trauma” and becomes a visual diary with the positioning of the “body” as a site of gradual reconciliation. In Huellas sin dejar Huellas/ Fingerprint Without Trace, delicate fingerprints in wet charcoal form abstract landscapes that resemble biomorphic forms. The mark-making suggests a presence which is irrevocably transformed with a “disfiguring” gesture, leaving no trace of the original.

In the Reconstruction Series, Hernandez transfers the terrain of investigation from the human to the manufactured with Barbie dolls becoming both the subject and object of dissection. Questioning how ideals of beauty are constructed and contested and how fear and stigma are localized are some of the underlying themes of this series.

In 2006, Hernandez produced a documentary Territories of the Breast, that offers a firsthand and up front look at the healthcare injustices that minority women face in the US. The documentary delves into an area that is severely overlooked in the wider discussion about access to healthcare as women of color are more likely to experience barriers to access as well as discriminatory practices in the ways they are offered medical services.  After encountering several instances where her own medical rights were violated during her cancer treatment, Sonia began the process of documenting her treatment and interviewed other cancer survivors who similarly faced many obstacles in navigating the healthcare system. 

Sonia Baez Hernandez’s art practice exists at the intersection of several disciplines. Her work explores social justice and human rights issues movements through a framework of critical theory.  As an artist, filmmaker, poet, writer, educator and scholar, she has tackled subjects as wide ranging as police brutality, immigration detention, border separation, healthcare injustice, breast cancer, racism, and climate change. She is a published poet, writer and scholar and received an MFA in studio art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, an MA in Sociology from UCLA, and a BA in Political Science from the University of Puerto Rico.