Maria Eugenia Chellet: The Reactivation of the Myth

Friday, 07 March 2014 11:22 Written by Josefína Alcazar
Performance has a therapeutic effect on María Eugenia Chellet (Mexico, 1948).

It is an inner need to express an idea, feeling, fantasy or obsession to others, working with the internal and external in a defined time and space. She has redeemed herself through the ritual aspect of performance. The reactivation of the myth has placed her in contact with fundamental, transcendental truths.

Chellet’s childhood featured numerous ritualized mises en scène with one of her brothers, ten years her senior. He would stage terror stories to entertain her, with characters such as death, mummies, Frankenstein, Dracula and werewolves. Later, she began to organize her own plays, in which fiction was no longer distinct from reality, creating situations of danger and fear.

Chellet was an artist, photographer and muse, wanting to see and be seen. She strove to make herself eternal through painting, but also captured life in photographs. She spent 30 years of her life with bohemian and extravagant painters who gave her an appreciation of violent and excessive acts, which Chellet interpreted as vital actions and experiences.

She began in photography and collage, which inspired her first performance pieces. Her work is primarily concerned with self-portrait, a means of exploring identity and affirming herself in space and time. It deals with the mythical world of idealized female images in Classical painting in cinema, cartoons, pin-ups and advertising. It depicts the collective imagination, using representations of archetypal images crystallized in mass-media culture as prototypes, original models simplified in reproducible stereotypes. She made a study of female archetypes from Classical art, using herself as a model.

For Chellet, though performance is an artistic action requiring an intellectual and creative development, and the technical manipulation of the body – breathing, movement and gestures, among others - , it is also a means of imaginatively redeeming, in another time and space, the unresolved desperations, obsessions, fantasies, nightmares, energies and nighttime fears accumulated in childhood. It is a form  of self-affirmation.

Sources: Documentary series by Performance Women in Action, Josefina Alcázar (compiler), 2006.
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