La planète des seins
Helena Martin Franco La planète des seins, from the series Étude pour habiller une femme éléphant, 2011.
Photo : courtesy of the artist

The underlying themes in Colombian-born Montréal artist Helena Martin Franco’s work are identity and alterity, explored via the body and the creation of autofictions. Through various projects in diverse media featuring fictional protagonists (Cœur Déphasé, Fritta Caro, the elephant woman) described as “identity collages,” Martin Franco makes visible the porosity of borders among cultural, national, and gender identities. Exemplary of this approach are the watercolours from Étude pour habiller une femme éléphant (entre le cœur et la trompe),based around a character inspired by the expression “tener el moco en el suelo” (literally, with its trunk to the ground). By embodying intimist subjects, the elephant woman opens the way to excavating gender archetypes inherited from the Judeo-Christian tradition and consolidated by anachronistic narrative models (movies, soap operas, love songs, advertising) that foster women’s sense of guilt and conformity. Martin Franco appropriates these models, which are popular in her country of birth, making her bedroom into a studio for creating other, often reconstructed, identities. Echoing the feminist slogan “The personal is political,” this series draws attention to life in a couple, understood as a microstructure in which power dynamics are played out, thus illustrating the permeability of the public and private spheres.

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This article also appears in the issue 90 - Feminisms

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