Outside a Nut*
* « she’s the greatest thing that ever came out of Brazil, outside a nut »
Carmen Miranda was a seductive surface. In Hollywood, she was the embodiment of exoticism and Latin sensuality. In Brazil, though Portuguese by birth, she personified the concept of Brasilianness, that is, she had become the symbol of the country national identity promoted by Getulio Vargas. Pale-skinned, Miranda took from Bahia women, who sold the fruit they carried on their head; she borrowed their headdresses, their dances and their cultures.
Natacha Lesueur takes as a starting point the images of Miranda manufactured by Hollywood. In this work, she reenacts the media construction of the actress, which she completely reconstructs: poses, sets, makeup, costumes. Here again the artist, known so far for her visual, ornamental and food-related compositions, questions what lies below bodies. She copies the image of the character, which is basically an assembly of finery, fruits, flowers, attitudes covered over by ideologies. Locked in a pose, confined to sets in which she sometimes sinks, Carmen’s double can be embodied but with difficulties: the flowers, fruits, jewels or fabrics covering her are already fading.
Her skin—too black, too white or too green—is the mark of an identity shared to the point of sickness. Her face is almost a mask, her smile is frozen. Lesueur draws it anew, adding depth to the surface of her complex political, cultural and media persona, with its contradictions and ambiguities. Replaying the images of Miranda, a film icon of exoticism, she turns her into the personification of a new concept: racial and sexual reification by the media.
* « Copacabana », (1h32, 1947 Alfred E. Green with Groucho Marx, Carmen Miranda, Steve Cochran).