At Paris’s Sainte Anne Gallery, ‘Womb’ examines the sculptor’s intersex identity, offering up the body as a well of creativity
In the US, the question of the womb is a rallying cry across political lines and the object of restrictive legislation in 24 conservative states. In France—where abortion has been legally protected by the federal government since 1975—less politically-fraught resonances have room to germinate, as Katharina Kaminski proves in her solo show Womb, which opens on October 14 at Paris’s Sainte Anne Gallery. The Uruguayan artist explores the idea of fertility outside of an exclusively biological context: In her hands, fertility becomes synonymous with artistic self-expression. “I’m very interested in the mysticism of creating,” she tells Document. “I seek, like in dreams, to connect with the unconscious, the occult, the infinite.”
Like Kaminski’s previous work, Womb is inspired by the artist’s own life. Born intersex, she only discovered that she has XY chromosomes a couple of years ago, after taking a blood test. The exhibition’s title contains a double meaning: Womb refers both to the organ Kaminski was born without, and to her personal wells of creativity. She identifies with the practice of surrealist automatism, surrendering herself to free association when dreaming up her works. “For me, creating is a ritual or a dance, between me and the clay,” she says.
A sense of ritual reverberates across the exhibition. Visitors ascend the gallery’s stairs to the second floor, where 10 of Kaminski’s Light Sculpture Beings are arranged like shrines on hallowed ground. Crafted from clay, marble, and bronze, the pieces evoke physical bodies, while remaining within the artist’s surreal idiom. They are spherical, orb-like creations, like the bulbs of still-blossoming alien flowers. Certain selections, such as Sacral, evoke fertility statues from prehistory. Others, like Telescopio Invertido, showcase Kaminski’s departure toward new materials. “I feel bronze is a more confident expression of my work,” says Kaminski. “Clay is more fragile and humble, while bronze and marble are so strong and lustful.”
Each sculpture contains a candle: a womb for an individual flame. Small openings allow the light to dance off the walls. The resultant chiaroscuro is accented by a John Cage soundscape. And although the effect feels whimsically dreamlike, Womb is the result of Kaminski’s technical proficiency. She has not only sculpted these organic creations, but also the environment in which they’re contained.
Some of Kaminski’s interests are in the tensions between light and dark, sound and silence. With Womb, she seeks to reconcile dualities, and dissolve them down to a singular experience. The show is a poetic exploration of fertility, inviting visitors to contemplate the human impulse toward creation, in all its various meanings.
Womb is on view at Sainte Anne Gallery between October 14 and December 20.