Irene Wa.: Smell of Awakening Soil

March 15 - June 10, 2020

"A leaf has a limbo- specific part of the body where most of the photosynthesis happens. The leaf inhales and exhales. She does it at night. The limbo is the part of the leaf that is wide and flat. The limbo- it is called limbo. When autumn starts, the tree absorbs the nutrients from the body of the leaf. She has to fly, eventually fall and integrate." - Irene Wa.

Irene Wa.'s sculptures, ceramics and video performance visually recall the Italian arte povera movement's reliance on humble, everyday materials and intuitive and unusual methods. "My work is about process," Wa says. "Constructing by layers, adding, removing and adding again: nothing is permanent. Moving away from the quick aesthetic of the un-touched, I give time and importance to each process, treasuring craft as a cultural heritage and social necessity of our time. Memory, loss, decay and metamorphosis are subjects that surround the work, indirectly but surely referenced by Latin-American socio-political issues."


"The leaves become a skin cortex that softens the soil. They are humid, then dry- their bodies contract, break. They join the others. They become pieces, unrecognizable, colorless matter. They become what they were; speculation, evidence. Now, said like this, the leaves are like the women in my country."


Wa. builds figures out of papier maché recycled cardboard, egg cartons, tape, and dirt, among other discards, that speak to the vulnerability of nature and the human body, and the empathy and care that sustaining them requires. Her ceramic masks made of clay, dried leaves, soil and cardboard, encourage similar forms of viewer identification. Wa. explains, "I construct sculptures, sometimes figures and sometimes fragments that contain space, and create shelters. Sometimes my body engages with the material and creates helmets, floors and suits for itself. With words the objects are grounded. Often they become explorations of tongue, mouth and ways of structuring thought through speech. In my time-based work, such as video and performance, I deal with ideas of nesting, protection, and encountering the self."

Wa. received an M.F.A. in Painting and Drawing from SAIC in 2020. She has a degree in Graphic Design from Universidad Iberoamericana, in Mexico City. Born in 1991, she has worked with organizations such as Colectivo C and K'inal Antsetik (Chiapas), in projects of public art and support for communities in Mexico.