María Magdalena Campos-Pons is one of the most important and renowned artists to emerge from post-revolutionary Cuba in the 1980s and one of its most powerful and poetic voices. This year Berengo Studio is proud to have collaborated with Campos-Pons to produce a series of five glass mobiles for her exhibition The Rise of the Butterflies at the Barbara Thumm Gallery in Berlin. Each mobile is inspired by the unique pigmentations of butterfly wings and the lush patterns and designs of nature. Using these original designs each individual one-of-a-kind piece was created using traditional Murano glass techniques in Berengo Studio.
María Magdalena Campos-Pons' The Rise of the Butterflies

The Rise of the Butterflies, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Galerie Barbara Thumm, 2021, Courtesy Galerie Barbara Thumm – Photo © Jens Ziehe

In her new exhibition, Campos-Pons once again reinvents herself and her work. While memories, displacement and the struggle for identity shaped her works of the 1990s, Campos-Pons‘ works reveal themselves as always in flux, setting new references, chronicling the metamorphosis of a changing cultural perspective. Glass has featured as part of the artist’s repetoire for many years. In fact, Campos-Pons has been working with the material since 1963. Notable examples include her works Spoken Softly with Mama (1998) an installation that included a whole series of cast glass irons and trivets, Threads of Memory (2004) and Sugar Bittersweet (2010), where she processed her personal experiences, the fundamental bond with her family, and the cultural history of her native Cuba. Race, religion, and class are central themes in her works and this exhibition is no different. Launched as part of the Berlin Art Week at the start of September, for this show Campos-Pons turned her attention to contemporary events. .
María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Backstage at Berengo Studio

Behind the scenes at Berengo Studio – Photo credit Thea Hawlin

María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Backstage at Berengo Studio

Behind the scenes at Berengo Studio – Photo credit Barbara Thumm

The exhibition is dedicated to the late Breonna Taylor. Taylor was an African-American woman whose violent death at the hands of police officers is included in the Black Lives Matter movement. On the basis of her death a law was even passed (Breonna’s Law). In memory of her late sister, Ju’Niyah Palmer let a number of butterflies fly freely into the air on 25th of September 2020. The symbolic act touched Campos-Pons and inspired her greatly. The fact that the butterflies released were exclusively Monarch butterflies only added to the poetic sentiment of the tribute, as this species of butterfly reaches Michoacán, Mexico, on its annual migrations on Dia de Muertos, when the dead are commemorated.

These “Day of the Dead” celebrations are distinguished by their colourful and festive approach to mortality and again Campos-Pons took great inspiration from traditional Mexican floral decorations. Combining the themes of the butterflies and the vibrant colours of the festivities the artist began to mediate on a way in which she could extrapolate on the mythology of the butterfly and its dramatic transformation from caterpillar through pupation to hatching and rebirth. Ideas of immortality and resurrection abound with the moving shifting physicality of the architecture of the hanging sculptures enhancing a senes of eternal transformative beauty. Though the individual glass sculptures used to built the mobiles are taken from the abstract patterns of butterfly wings several have also been made to be reminiscent of tears, reflecting the idea of mourning and the Nazar amulet (the “blue eye”) that in Arabic stands for sight, vision and insight and is a symbol in the Middle East and North Africa to confront evil.

María Magdalena Campos-Pons' The Rise of the Butterflies

The Rise of the Butterflies, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Galerie Barbara Thumm, 2021, Courtesy Galerie Barbara Thumm – Photo © Jens Ziehe

Metamorphosis is the theme at the core of the show. A celebration of the conquest of evil, and the ways in which tragedy can be transformed through love. The installation in Berlin is complemented by large-scale painted photographs of flowers that provide an explosion of colour, in lush joyful tones, creating an exuberant allegorical tune of memory and redemption to complement the exhibition.

María Magdalena Campos-Pons, The Rise of the Butterflies, runs at the Galerie Barbara Thumm until the 31st December 2021.

María Magdalena Campos-Pons' The Rise of the Butterflies

The Rise of the Butterflies, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Galerie Barbara Thumm, 2021, Courtesy Galerie Barbara Thumm – Photo © Jens Ziehe