Marcela Cantuária’s Vibrant Homage to Climate Justice Activists

MIAMI — At first, the three large-scale oil paintings by Marcela Cantuária radiate that Instagram-ready energy common to so much contemporary art. Inside Pérez Art Museum Miami’s double-height gallery, the Brazilian artist’s first show in the United States, I heard a lot of wows from viewers attracted to her monumental, vibrant panels accompanied by paintings of butterflies and mythical Tarot creatures hovering across the gallery’s gray walls. But despite this exhibition’s magical bent, The South American Dream is also about struggles for social and environmental justice in a more down-to-earth world.

“No los dejemos dormir (Let’s Not Let Them Sleep)” (2023), a huge textile map of South America, hangs in a corner with the message in Spanish: “Si no nos dejan soñar, no los dejaremos dormir” (“If they don’t allow us to dream, we won’t let them sleep.”) Concealed beneath the painting’s chromatic surfaces is an homage to fighters, including those who died in Latin American countries in the second half of the 20th century fighting against ultra-right dictatorships backed by the United States, such as the Fulgencio Batista regime in Cuba and the military dictatorship in Brazil, and those who continue fighting for environmental and social causes today.

Featured image: Installation view of The South American Dream, featuring works by Marcela Cantuária (photograph by Oriol Tarridas, courtesy Pérez Art Museum Miami)

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