Unfortunately, there are no places on earth where phallic symbols are absent in public spaces. Patriarchy, much like whiteness and maleness, drown this earth with icons and symbols representing masculinity (the toxic one, that is) and annoyingly remind us all who “allegedly” is the ruler of this world; white men. Gender, as we know it, is a social, political, and cultural construction specifically designed to give men the advantage to say “its just natural that we rule!”
Unconsciously or not, Zilia Sánchez’s art pieces represent a female eroticism from the point of view of a woman. The Cuban artist’s body of work can be described as the manifestation of the female body through abstract and undulating silhouettes that build a sensual palette with soft pink colors. Instead of building high pointed figures (phallic symbols) her work consists of resemblances of female genitalia and breasts. By using different shades of pink, Sánchez’s work does not attempt to replace the fake power the phallus implies to give, rather she builds a peaceful and beautiful portrayal of what is like to be a woman in contemporary society.
Much like New Mexican renowned artist Georgia O’Keeffe, Sánchez plays with the juxtapositions between the feminine and the masculine in her monumental art pieces. For example, her art exhibition Heróicas Eróticas at the Galerie Lelong in New York in 2014, consisted of canvases stretched over hand-molded wooden armatures that invite the spectator to look at the piece from different angles. This exhibit showcased pieces that took from over 50 years in production and had never been shown to the public since the Cuban artist moved to Puerto Rico.
Sanchez began making art during the 1950’s in La Havana, Cuba with canvases and further developed her artistic skills working in New York City and in Madrid, Spain. She now resides in San Juan, Puerto Rico where she continues to develop art pieces in homage to women and to herself.
Her minimalist approach, playfulness with feminine sensuality, and her different shades of pink bring a different (a less aggressive and pretentious) idea of symbolic power of human genitelia as opposed to pointed, huge, and unrealistically big phallic pieces such as every single tall building in midtown Manhattan. Is this the objective of the artist? To oppose phallic figures? To offer a different perspective? Or to just simply let her imagination fly? Regardless of her intention, Zilia Sánchez delivers the femininity of Latinas we all need right now.