(Un)Mending Bodies: Patricia Belli and Feminist Artistic Praxis in Central America, 1986-2000s
“(Un)Mending Bodies” focuses on the work of the contemporary Nicaraguan artist, Patricia Belli (b. 1964), whose textile and mixed-media assemblages from the late 1980s through the early 2000s evidence themes related to gender, sexuality, and unruly bodies, during a critical time of transition in Nicaraguan social and political life. Looking closely at Belli’s practice, my project considers how her work— which constitutes an expansive and rich archive of textures, materialities, and somatic languages— foregrounds a feminist sensibility that reworks the legacy of national aesthetics and socio-political discourses in the country. Following Belli’s oeuvre, I center on the condition and possibilities of gendered matter and her unrelenting desire to craft new bodies. Thinking of bod(ies) in an expanded field—as corporal, social, political, and geographic containers—I consider how Belli’s practice gives contours to the ways bodies are made and unmade during times of political crisis, and how the notion of mending, as a craft-based technique and feminist strategy, is deployed to unravel patriarchal discourses that condition bodies into closed forms. Through her textural interventions, Belli’s works also allow us to explore a repertoire of feminist artistic praxis from this period, both in Nicaragua and across Central America, that come to create networks of resistance and exchange. My dissertation ultimately serves to demonstrate how these interventions serve as the foundation on which regional intersectional feminisms begin to take shape within contemporary art in Central America.