Alessandra Torres

Baltimore, MD | by February 10, 2012

I have known Alessan­dra Tor­res for over ten years now, ever since we were under­grad­u­ates at Mary­land Insti­tute Col­lege of Art. Her piece from our 2002 com­mence­ment exhi­bi­tion– a per­for­mance for which she lay naked and blind­folded inside a glass and steel adult size incu­ba­tor, left a last­ing impres­sion on me.  Yet even though we have remained very friendly acquain­tances over the years, it was not until fairly recently that I gained a real under­stand­ing and appre­ci­a­tion of her work.

Alessandra’s work still explores the human body in rela­tion to space and as mark maker.  She fre­quently incor­po­rates her own bare body, and the work could eas­ily become merely exhi­bi­tion­ist or aggres­sively con­fronta­tional.   How­ever, in the years since our com­mence­ment exhi­bi­tion, both Alessan­dra and her work have become less self-​​conscious and more play­ful and now her child­like curios­ity is a dri­ving impe­tus to her prac­tice.  This per­me­ates all her work with an allur­ing qual­ity rather than an antag­o­nis­tic one.

I vis­ited Alessan­dra at her live-​​in stu­dio at The Cre­ative Alliance as she pre­pared for a Decem­ber exhi­bi­tion at Inter­lochen Arts Acad­emy in Inter­lochen, MI.  She was invited to exhibit after lead­ing a body work­shop with the high school stu­dents there last Jan­u­ary.  She was work­ing on a series of inter­ac­tive draw­ings that ref­er­enced the top­ics she had cov­ered in the work­shop: the body as a mark-​​making tool, phys­i­cal­ity in mak­ing, and body mem­ory.  The draw­ings were made up of cutout out­lines of her arms and legs, painted on the back with mag­netic paint and placed on a mag­netic sur­face.  In this way the audi­ence will be allowed to manip­u­late the draw­ings and chore­o­graph the bod­ies through out the exhi­bi­tion.  For this show she also exhib­ited large-​​scale pho­tographs that doc­u­mented a series of per­for­mances about hid­ing, and assem­bled a maze of armoires and cab­i­nets that view­ers were invited to climb into.

In 2009, as a res­i­dent at The Ver­mont Stu­dio Cen­ter, Alessan­dra was struck by the moun­tains that sur­rounded the cen­ter.  In an effort to incor­po­rate her­self into this land­scape, she cre­ated a gor­geous series of dig­i­tal pho­tographs that depict an image of her prone and draped with a blan­ket, super­im­posed into the stark win­tery Ver­mont land­scape; the sharp point of her knees and gen­tle humps of her hips and shoul­ders mir­ror and become part of the hilly back­ground.  Always after a free­dom of move­ment in her work, she also cre­ated a ver­sion of these images where her body is a mag­ne­tized cut out that can be moved around on the pho­tographed land­scape.  Cre­at­ing work in this way allows the pieces to vary each time she exhibits them and to be rein­ter­preted overtime.

As a new res­i­dent at The Cre­ative Alliance (CA) in Baltimore’s Pat­ter­son Park neigh­bor­hood, Alessan­dra has a large per­sonal stu­dio and exhi­bi­tion space, with a lofted liv­ing space as well.   Hav­ing this expan­sive work­space is allow­ing her to cre­ate and exhibit pieces at a human scale that actu­ally move, where as much of her recent work has been pho­to­graphic doc­u­men­ta­tion of site spe­cific per­for­mance, or live gallery per­for­mances where she was pas­sive rather than actively respond­ing to the audience.

Just after she moved into CA last sum­mer, I saw Alessandra’s per­for­mance of Per­sonal Space, Exper­i­ment #1 as part of the Exposed exhi­bi­tion.  For this piece she had fab­ri­cated a 30 inch clear plas­tic sphere to house her folded naked body as she rolled around the floor of the gallery, up to and around indi­vid­ual audi­ence mem­bers, leav­ing a trail of dripped con­den­sa­tion behind her.  She gen­tly rocked toward and away from vis­i­tors as they entered the gallery, forc­ing them to con­front her body and their own.  When she rolled towards me, I found myself sud­denly and acutely aware of my own phys­i­cal­ity and com­fort zone, and in awe of her obvi­ous com­fort in her own skin.

I asked Alessan­dra where her lack of inhi­bi­tion came from and she explained that grow­ing up in Puerto Rico, she and her sis­ter were allowed to run around unclothed.  There was a free­dom to the cul­ture. Dance and exag­ger­ated body lan­guage were essen­tial to self-​​expression.  How­ever she was also a “gringa” and strangers would often approach her to pet her long blond hair.  Because she looked dif­fer­ent, she was always seek­ing a more mean­ing­ful con­nec­tion to her sur­round­ings.  These impulses are clearly evi­dent in her work to this day.

For the upcom­ing show of CA res­i­dents’ work, Sub­terfuge (Feb­ru­ary 25 – March 10, 2012), Alessan­dra is think­ing about a live dance per­for­mance that records move­ment as she trav­els through the space– but she was still in the plan­ning stages when we met.  I look for­ward to see­ing this piece and how her work will con­tinue to develop dur­ing her next three years as a res­i­dent at CA.

 

To watch a video of Per­sonal Space, Exper­i­ment #1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPmgXy4DdIM

For more infor­ma­tion about the stu­dio res­i­den­cies and upcom­ing exhi­bi­tions at The Cre­ative Alliance: http://www.creativealliance.org

 

 

 

 


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