Ceclia Vicuña is a Chilean artist and poet who, in her sculptural installations, has utilized natural and traditional materials to symbolize political and social struggles—and cultural resilience in the face of these struggles—in her home country and beyond. Her precarios, an ongoing series of small installations begun in 1966, are composed of feathers, stones, sticks, and other found materials that can exist together and then fall apart and fade away naturally. The fragility of the constructions and their readiness to slip back into their surroundings is emblematic, to the artist, of the Andean people’s connections to the earth and their acceptance of the constancy of change.
Vicuña has also, through her use of wool and other natural fibers, incorporated the aesthetic and processes of weaving and spinning into her work. Typically the realm of women, this sort of handwork is meditative, ancient, and, perhaps most importantly, fundamentally tactile. Cloud-net, a series of installations created in 1998, was an artfully simple network of hanging wool skeins, an oversized yet delicate reminder of the cultures for whom wool and its products are essential, and of the anonymous hands that work to turn this wool into a sustainable livelihood.
Vicuña has published numerous volumes of poetry and has helped to edit and anthologize other Latin American poets. She currently lives in both New York and Chile.
Cecilia Vicuña, Living Khipu. Unannounced roof performance, New York, 2006. Unspun wool. Dimensions variable. Collection of the artist. Photo by Tara Hart.
Vicuña, Cecilia. Cloud-Net. New York: Art in General, 1999.
———. Ül: Four Mapuche Poets: An Anthology. Poetry in Indigenous Languages. New York; Pittsburgh: Americas Society; Latin American Literary Review Press, 1998.
Vicuña, Cecilia and Anne Twitty. Precarious. New York: Tanam Press, 1983.
Vicuña, Cecilia and Eliot Weinberger. Unravelling Words and the Weaving of Water. St. Paul, Minn.: Graywolf Press, 1992.
Vicuña, Cecilia, M. Catherine de Zegher, and Kanaal Art Foundation. The Precarious: The Art and Poetry of Cecilia Vicuña. Hanover, N.H.; London: University Press of New England, 1997.