Sandra Gamarra's Magical Mystery Tour at the Bass Museum

With the exception of a missing pew and some hymnals, a modest room near the entrance of the Bass Museum of Art could be a private chapel. Approximately the size of an average South Florida bedroom, the space called the Cabinet houses a suite of 15 paintings, suggesting that art museums can be seen as sites for pilgrimage and worshipful contemplation.

The paintings -- on view as part of "Sandra Gamarra: At the Same Time (Al Mismo Tiempo)" -- depict former visitors to the Bass observing mostly religious-themed 16th- and 17th-century master paintings from the museum's permanent collection, exhibited in the Taplin Gallery, next door to the Cabinet. It's part of the Bass's efforts to complement its older works with contemporary art. Cultist reached the Peruvian, Madrid-based artist at her new studio in Spain last week where she mused about her creative process and shared her views on the mystical nature of art.

Sandra Gamarra At The Same Time, triptych
Courtesy Galeria Leme

Cultist: Can you tell us a little about how you equate viewing art as a mystical experience?

Sandra Gamarra: When I refer to art as a mystical experience I pursue a pattern where art comes from. If for example you look at colonial art in south America most of it was propagated through for religious purposes. The church always attempted to spread its stories through images. Or if you look at pre-Columbian works of art, most of serve a daily function that mediates the magic of nature, the earth, life and death through functional and decorated objects. I guess it is the same through any art movements, this sort of transition of time. So really I just pursue a pattern where art maintains a tension between the real and the unknown which still seems to open up mystical or shamanic function for reflection if you would like.

This suite of canvases is shown in a room that has been painted a burgundy color that appears in the canvases and the room is dimly lighted. It felt sort of like visiting a chapel or place of meditation. What was the inspiration behind showing the works in this fashion?

I wanted to use the space so that it looked like a little chapel that mirrored the bigger Taplin Gallery. I decided to lower the light so that people's senses become a little more stimulated. If the light is low, you might look in a different way, pay more attention to the sound, smell. It is like when you go in a church, the light is low and people turn introspective... In fact, once you position yourself in front of the work, your shadow covers it. It is a way to question the image.

These paintings evoke a strong feeling of déjà vu, almost as if one had visited the museum before and observed the subjects in the paintings at an earlier time, What is your sense of this?

Sandra Gamarra At The Same Place 1
Courtesy Galeria Leme

I like the idea of coming back to look at something, Although one might see the same thing again, the situation is always different and makes this experience seem as if it was brand-new again. The déjà vu is similar to a going-back; it is like the notion of pilgrimage.

We know that the these images were inspired from your visit to the Bass Museum, What about the  sculptural images in the At the Same Place series of paintings? These canvases represent outdoor scenes at what appear to be a sculpture garden and play with different tonalities and lighting nicely contrasting with the indoor series, Can you tell us about this?

Sandra Gamarra Fatima triptych
Courtesy Galeria Juana de Aizpuru

"I wanted to do a parallel with a mystical experience in a chapel and with the idea of apparition of a virgin. The Fatima painting is titled in reference to the appearance of the virgin of Fatima by three shepherds in Portugal during the 19th century. I tend to see public sculpture as if they had this sort of relation. To some extent they suddenly appear in an urban context or sculptural garden and surprise you. So I like to look at the At the Same Place series as an place were art goers do an outdoor pilgrimage and witness some sort of transcendent event on the road. It´s like when religious people go on a pilgrimage to a place of devotion, they ask for some sort of miracle, make a wish, as well as want to witness that mystic place.

Check out the full review and interview in this week's print addition.

"Sandra Gamarra: At the Same Time (Al Mismo Tiempo)"  through October 16 at the Bass Museum of Art (2100 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach). Call 305-673-7530 or visit bassmuseum.org.

Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.