Carmen Reategui

Visual Artist


As in the entire Earth, also in Peru the Earth dies.
In the earth itself and in history.
Both profaned without mercy.

But at times the Earth regenerates.
In myth and in certain arts.
The arts of reparation, of amendment, of healing even,
preciously symbolized by artificers such as Carmen Reátegui.
Through the years and with the various works
that now culminate in the Origin.

Qosqo ––the title of her last piece–– could mean navel
in the occult language of the Incas (perhaps Puquina)
alluded to by Garcilaso de la Vega,
the great mestizo chronicler of a Peru
that died and was reborn in the Conquest.

A most hypothetical translation,
but by now deeply rooted
in the popular imaginary of Cuzco
as a city both fantasized and factual.
And thus powerfully evocative
for this insinuating maelstrom
of maize cobs sculpted out of stone.

Piedra de Huamanga:
the alabaster most identified with Ayacucho,
that “corner of the dead”
(or perhaps of the souls).
The Andean node of our uncivil war,
our many violences, all too contemporary.

Here sublimated:
There is an almost funereal pureness in the circular accumulation
of lithic whites that are also grays.
But there is as well a mystic and messianic desire
in the radiance of the aureate covering of a single cob
(the mineral gold, the oneiric El Dorado),
so essentially placed in the central depression
of this vortex.

Sexual: seldom do fruits other than the maize
combine in a such a disquieting way
both phallic and ovular suggestions.
The seeds that envelop and exacerbate
the hidden but erect cob.

As in a natural prefiguration
of the disturbing Greek omphalus:
The grand marble and its eruptive skin
with sculpted knots and precious stones.
All in reverence to the idol left by Zeus in Delphi,
thus sacralizing that city as the umbilicus of the cosmos.
And of the communication between the living and the dead
and the gods.

Corn, however, could also
be associated with the multiple breasts
lavished over the Greek effigy
of the “great Artemis of the Ephesians”,
the erect Great Mother whose even Biblical memory (Acts 19:34)
would later stimulate
the discourse of psychoanalysis (Freud, 1911).

Or even the classical tradition:
Hércules, Heracles,
travestied as a woman and forced to domestic tasks
in loving slavery to Queen Omphale (Omphale) of Lidia.

Future mother of his children.
But all deriving into the Mother of Christ,
who in following John the Evangelist
would settle in Ephesus,
where her cult eventually syncretized
with that of Artemis.

Free associations that in our gaze associate
Reátegui’s Qosqo with the reclining body of Jesus
returned to the enveloping body of Mary.
That is the body of the Earth.
A Pietá.

Heed be paid to the crucial antecedent in which Carmen
transfigures with other maize cobs
Mantegna’s dead Christ.
Taita Sara: the name of this impressive piece
condenses the Quechua word for corn
with the Hebrew name of Abraham’s wife.
The old and withered woman
that would nevertheless know the joys of fertility.
And gave birth to a people
(Gen. 18:9-15).
As in an Old Testament premonition
of the major Annunciation referred to in the Gospels
(Luke 1: 26-38, Mathew 1: 18-21).

Heed be paid to the dense theology thus inscribed
in the great formal beauty
and even in the very materiality of these works.

Christ is the Virgin.
The Virgin is the Phallus.


Gustavo Buntinx