State of the Art

Here’s why you need to see Beatriz Vasquez’s new show, “Feminine Bloodlines, Mexican Womanhood: Erasing Submissiveness”

Imagine a gallery full of portraits of strong women. Imagine these portraits are huge—at least ten feet by five feet. Imagine these portraits are all precisely made out of delicate cut paper.

Indianapolis-based artist Beatriz Vasquez creates just that. Vasquez is a papel picado artist, creating her work using the Mexican folk art tradition of cut paper.

She grew up in Brownsville, Texas with family living across the border in Matamonos, Mexico and went to school at Herron School of Art + Design at IUPUI, graduating in 2006 with a focus on creating illustration for children’s books. She found that creating children’s books illustrations was a competitive market in Indianapolis, and rather than be stuck comparing her work to those around her, decided to reinvent herself and her art practice.

Vasquez traveled to Matamonos in 2009 to spark this reinvention and to connect with her family and study Mexican crafts. Here she rediscovered papel picado and decided to dedicate her art practice to the medium. Traditionally, papel picado is done using chisels and mallets to cut layers of colorful tissue paper. Using this technique as her inspiration, Vasquez has made it her own. 

She uses layers of paper, but cuts them using only an X-acto knife. She then uses the knife like a pencil, cutting without sketching it out first. The precision and beauty of her paper cut pieces are incredible, and even more mind-blowing knowing she cuts them freehand. 

In her upcoming exhibit at The Indianapolis Arts Council’s Gallery 924, she is showcasing a series of “larger than life” papel picado pieces. Her show, “Feminine Bloodlines, Mexican Womanhood: Erasing Submissiveness” opens on Friday, February 7.

According to the show description, Vasquez created a series of portraits to create physical space for strong empowered women in the 21st century. In looking through Vasquez’s Instagram, you can see one piece, in particular, that she’ll be showcasing in the exhibit, and showing in public for the last time, “La Virgin Morena”. 

You can see the detail and the large size in her photos. There is an interesting tension between the strength in the large size, black outlines, and powerful women Vasquez is showcasing in her work and the delicacy of the paper she’s using as her medium. The precision needed to cut these large-scale portraits without a sketch powerfully contrasts the size and power of the women. 

You’ll be able to see this breathtaking work in person and get a chance to talk with the artist during the opening reception on February 7 from 6-9 pm at Gallery 924. It will be up until March 27. 

Follow Beatriz on Instagram @beatrizdesignz.

Bekah Pollard is a visual artist, writer, and educator living and working in Indianapolis. She teaches at the Indianapolis Art Center. She currently has a solo exhibition, “Avalanche” on display at the Schrott Center for the Arts now until February 16.