During the Covid-19 lockdowns, Alicia Reyes McNamara used her artistic practice to process her anxieties. However, this soon evolved into an investigation, influenced by her Mexican Irish American heritage, into “folklore and rituals around loss, mourning and healing, in which beings and landscapes mutate and shapeshift, creating a personal imaginary of forms of embodiment,” as she describes it.
Mamá certainly makes you look carefully. Is the central figure protected, or imprisoned? McNamara’s inspiration came from a weekly tarot workshop run by artist and poet Daniella Valz Gen. Sessions ended with Valz Gen turning over three cards, which the students would use as prompts to create something for the following week.
McNamara says the star card “made me think of a feminine figure and the abundance that can be held within that body”. The card pictures water spilling from jugs, which she translated into the pink figure’s hair and the waves of her body.
The fool card features a little blue beast climbing up the central character’s leg. That same beast takes centre stage in McNamara’s work. Finally, there was the sun card. Two figures touch awkwardly beneath the sun, and this provoked the importance of touch within McNamara’s finished piece.
“It allowed me to move past my immediate imagined ideas and push myself into a space of something very new and exciting”
McNamara connected the imagery in the tarot cards to her research around feminine figures within Irish and Mexican folklore. “It allowed me to move past my immediate imagined ideas and push myself into a space of something very new and exciting,” she says.
McNamara explains further: “While researching between Mexican and Irish mythology I was interested in a non-binary space, where the figures and their forms have the potential to transcend their own definition and acquire a new life or meaning. This piece was an exploration of a being that can be seen in both a hypersexualised and mothering form. They are in a shapeshifting transitional state, while they hold or house another creature.”
McNamara will be part of a group show at Tabula Rasa gallery in Beijing in May, and is also taking part in the London Open at Whitechapel in June, before preparing for a solo show at the Niru Ratnam Gallery in Soho.
A limited-edition print of Mamá is available to buy now from Elephant Kiosk