The Somatic and Textural Language of Patricia Belli: Recrafting Social and Political Bodies in 1990s Nicaragua

Lesdi C. Goussen Robleto

“The Somatic and Textural Language of Patricia Belli: Recrafting Social and Political Bodies in 1990s Nicaragua” looks at early textile assemblages by the contemporary Nicaraguan artist Patricia Belli. Opening with the seminal exhibition MESóTICA II: Centroamérica/re-generación—which took place in Costa Rica in 1996—the essay positions Belli as part of an emerging generation of experimental artists who were working in the aftermath of the Central American Crisis. Contextualized within this period, I argue that Belli’s textile assemblages from the early 1990s emerge as affective containers of personal and collective memories endured by the region. By reworking secondhand clothes imported from the United States, Belli recrafts garments into visceral containers that evoke disfigured and mutilated bodies. Thinking beyond normative constructions of the body—and in particular, feminized bodies—Belli’s textile assemblages emerge as subversive constructions that privilege unruly and undisciplined bodies. Through these textile inquiries, I explore how the artist forges a system of sensitive communication that emerges as a medium for healing—evidenced through the recurrent appearance of lesions, scars, and fractures. Looking at her work alongside other feminist practices taking place regionally, this essay also explores emerging feminist artist networks that are rooted in somatic languages that challenge normative modes of knowledge-production and communication.

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LESDI CAROLINA GOUSSEN ROBLETO is a Ph.D. Candidate in the History of Art Department, at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research looks at contemporary feminist practices in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a focus on experimental, mixed-media practices in Central America. Her dissertation “(Un)mending Bodies: Patricia Belli and Feminist Artistic Praxis in Central America, 1986-2000s,” centers on the work of the contemporary Nicaraguan artist, Patricia Belli (b. 1964) against the backdrop of postwar Nicaragua. Tending to fiber and craft-based materialities in the artist’s oeuvre, the dissertation considers feminist re-articulations of media specificity that forge a dialogue around questions related to gender, sexuality, and the conditions of the body, at the nexus of social and political transition in the region. 

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