Maidoff Gallery at SACI College of Art and Design in Florence, Italy
Lucia Simental’s recent exhibition Jardín de Mujeres is a series of intricate ceramic and sculptural works that presents a holistic reflection on the experience of womanhood, simultaneously universal and diverse, as it relates to historical and contemporary notions of the female experience. Simental’s approach of exploring common female experiences—from celebrations of womanhood to reflections on gender-based violence—with floral motifs and striking colours shrouds even the most unsettling topics in a veil of delicacy and hope.
Simental’s series of radiant female-flower hybrid busts first and foremost examines the feminine form from adolescence through adulthood, but through this form of sculptural representation subtly elevates these anonymous figures to a level of importance (in spite of their grounded installation). These faceless figures allude to the universality of the female experience and in their state of full bloom convey the resilience of women in all stages of life. The energy of these pieces, perhaps propelled by their brilliant colouring, emanates within the circular formation the busts create, evoking a sense of unity and power between the figures. This vibrancy is gently interrupted by the three ceramic vessels along the back of the gallery, Trinity (I Society, II Domestic Violence, III Rape), that invite the viewer to cautiously approach them and to peer into their ominous forced orifices. Gashed through the middle and overflowing with flowers, these vessels communicate the cycle of abuse and neglect leading to rebirth and regrowth. Recollections of Aroma, a series of intricately carved bars of soap, softly punctuates the wall space and offers a subtle floral aroma throughout the gallery echoing and uniting the floral motifs that characterize Jardín de Mujeres.
The use of flowers to express femininity, growth and resilience is consistent with Simental’s oeuvre; she has gradually moved away from ornate floral ornamentation on utilitarian vessels during her BFA toward the creation of ceramic vessels in which the floral arrangements are integral to its structure (as we see in Witches Sabbath) or working to disrupt the structure of the found and built objects (in the case of Trinity and Recollections of Aroma). Simental’s Women at the Table installation during her first-year MFA group show Sensorily Present (2019) set the precedent for Jardin de Mujeres; Women at the Table, a table setting recalling Judy Chicago’s feminist masterpiece The Dinner Party (1979), includes 47 individual pieces of ceramic tableware in which the cutlery, platters, and vessels, have been overcome by flowers, effectively impeding their functionality and consequently critiquing the gendered and hierarchical categories of fine art and historically utilitarian craft.
Through Simental’s thoughtful and evocative sculptures and ceramic vessels we are reminded of women’s inherent strength and ability to flourish through adversity. ▪️
Lucia Simental is a Mexican American ceramic sculptor. She has a BFA in Ceramics with a minor in Art History from The New Hampshire Institute of Art, Manchester. She is currently living in Florence, Italy, completing her MFA in Studio Art at SACI with a concentration in Ceramics.