Doris Salcedo is a contemporary artist specializing in sculpture and weaved artworks. Salcedo is a Master’s graduate of New York University born in Bogota Columbia. She explores the empathy the society has when mourning their loved ones. On the fourth floor of the Chicago Museum of Contemporary, Art Salcedo displays a vast installation of a variety of art pieces that invoke a mass grave feeling. The room is filled with art that delivers beauty and fragility in the same measure; wood tables, dressers, armories, wood tables and chairs arranged in the retrospective charge the room with a palpable sense of grief. Salcedo arranges wooden tables in pairs resting on each other upside down with a layer of soil sandwiched in between. Wardrobes rendered dysfunctional by Salcedo's modifications as well as the furniture filled with rebar and concrete are arranged to create the feeling of claustrophobia. Through the tiny holes in the wood, blades of woven grass poke out and seem to carry a message of hope in an otherwise walk in the graveyard for ‘plegaria Muda’ (Salcedo, Widholm, & Grynsztejn, 2015).
Salcedo manipulates the used furniture from families of extrajudicial killings victims to create a sense of mourning in her artwork where she questions how the society today grieves for the deceased. Through her delicate designs, she manages to remove the productivity of the furniture and thus create the atmosphere of death, which is her main theme in the collection. Most of the furniture in the room have a dark brown color depicting the serious nature of Salcedo’s message. She manages to create a poetic flow of her expressions as the crowded arrangement of her art pieces are placed in deliberate and precise attempts to give life to the chaos occasioned by social deaths of the marginalized population (Salcedo, Widholm, & Grynsztejn, 2015).
Salcedo's artwork is often benchmarked on the back of Paul Celan’s death fugues. This is because often experts are of the opinion that both artists are focused on the intellectual and emotional underpinnings of art as opposed to traditional thirst for spectacle. This extreme positioning of her artwork has earned her criticism from various quarters. Kenneth Baker, a San Francisco-based chronicle critic, defines her dedication to art and its importance as almost tipping into the sentimental.
Salcedo's choice of art pieces and the manipulations she introduces to pursue her theme mixes with her choice of room arrangement and predominant color of the pieces to amplify her message to the audience. The combination of a variety of elements enables her to communicate the pain of losing loved ones and the disorientation that comes with it to compress extensive technical and research preparation into a cohesive message that is easily depicted by the display (Salcedo, Widholm, & Grynsztejn, 2015).
To some extent, Doris Salcedo’s art pieces communicates her message explicitly enough. However, the message that is first obtained upon entering the room is that of hopeless and desperate chaos which is only a part of her message. Doris’ artwork aims at communicating the challenges that individuals go through upon traumatizing experiences. The art only conveys the sense of loss but not advices how to handle it. Salcedo’s art pieces are unique and effective in comparison with other contemporary artworks. Doris’ artwork is mildly appealing. Even though the pieces are creating a dull theme, they are attractive, intriguing, and exciting for viewers.
In conclusion, Salcedo’s art pieces convey a significant message touching on the empathy that the society has upon a traumatizing event. The actual inspiration for Salcedo’s choice of the theme may be the obvious desire to help marginalized groups voice their concerns; however, there could be other contributing factors. As a result, I would like to learn more on what motivated Solcedo’s choice of theme and arrangement of her art pieces.