"You don't need a big brain to be an artist"
The work of María Fernanda Cardoso (Bogota, Colombia, 1963) has a consistent feature: looking at the different ways geometry manifests itself in living creatures. Cardoso has developed a powerful body of work based on the intrinsic forms of animals and plants, combining them in unexpected ways. Her work evolves from sculpture to scientific research, through public performances, in series that are developed over a long period of time.
Initially, when she still lived in Colombia, Cardoso would take local materials and native dead animals in order to build sculptures and enigmatic objects alluding to Pre-Columbian myths and indigenous traditions. Typical objects such as totumas,earths soaps, homemade glue, bocadillos and other elements pertaining to local cultures were combined in surprising works. Pieces with flies, grasshoppers, snakes, wall lizards and frogs are considered key pieces of contemporary Colombian art: one of them, Corona para una princesa Chibcha (Crown for a Chibcha Princess) was awarded the first prize for the Biannual Exhibit at Bogotá's Museum of Modern Art I 1990.
In the mid 1990s, Cardoso moved to the United States, where she began her research on fleas, an ubiquitous domestic parasite; few years later, the Cardoso Flea Circus, initially a performance belonging to the realm of art, becomes an authentic mass show. Simultaneously, Cardoso investigates the behavior of insects, with a particular interest on the phenomenon of camouflage, characteristic of some species that may be seen as a reflection of the immigrant’s will to belong and to become one with his/her context.
After living in San Francisco for several years, Cardoso moved to Sydney, Australia. This led to a renewed investigation of different traditions and materials, such as sheep’s wool and emu’s feathers, a native bird, while preserving an emphasis on the intrinsic geometry of the organic. Cardoso devotes long periods of time to her series: her work on fleas took a whole decade; since the beginning of this century, the artist has undertaken an investigation into the incredible formal diversity of the reproductive organs in some animals, particularly at the microscopic level, in a long-term project on the morphology of reproductive organs of small animals and insects.
Her artworks have been exhibited in several collections like The Arts Centre Gold, Surfers Paradise, Australia; Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango, Bogota, Colombia; Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO), Miami, FL, USA; Cisneros Collection, Venezuela; Daros Latinamerica, Zürich, Switzerland; The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, PA, USA; Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL, USA; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Bogota, Colombia; Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogota, Colombia; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA, USA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sídney, Australia; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, USA; and Tate Gallery, London, UK.
Her multidisciplinary career spans over three decades, 28 countries, 48 solo shows, 146 group exhibitions, 9 public art commissions and 12 performances. She was awarded her PhD from the University of Sydney in 2012. She graduated from Yale University with a masters in sculpture and installation in 1990, and her works have subsequently been acquired by the Tate Modern and many other major collections in the United States and Europe. She has exhibited at prestigious institutions around the world including the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Centro Reina Sofia in Madrid. Recent major public art projects include While I Live I Will Grow, South Sydney Hospital Green Square, 2018; Sandstone Pollen, Darling Harbour, 2016; and a commission for Wollongong Central, 2014. She was recipient of the Australia Council for the Arts’ prestigious Creative Australia Fellowship in 2014.
Roca, José and Marin, Alejandro. “Maria Fernanda Cardoso”. In Animalario de Maria Fernanda Cardoso, edited by José Roca and Alejandro Marin, 2-4. Bogotá: Seguros Bolívar, 2013.