Chilean artist Cecilia Avendaño’s strange and evocative portraits

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Cecilia Avendaño Bobillier. Santiago, Chile 1980.

Cecilia Avendaño Bobillier graduated from University of Chile where she studied visual arts and photography. Cecilia began exhibiting her work in 2002, participating in numerous group exhibitions in Chile and abroad. She’s participated in outstanding one person shows including Sala Cero at Animal Gallery, National Museum of Fine Arts, as well as BAC! Festival in Barcelona’s MACBA, Museum of Contemporary Art at the University of Chile, Centro Cultural Borges in Buenos Aires Argentina. Her most recent work includes digital post production operations on photography where she composes images that become portraits, but operates with different concepts related to identity construction. She has been selected twice for the National Fund FONDART, plus obtaining the second place in the art contest “Artists of the XXI Century” organized by the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and Banco Santander. She currently lives and works in Santiago, Chile.


Portrait by Tomas Eyzaguirre


EMERGE / CECILIA AVENDAÑO. from bog on Vimeo.


Blow – Cecilia Avendaño from Ceciliaavendano on Vimeo.

Interview with Disinformation

Disinfo: Is your work calculated or intuitive?

Cecilia: My work is a mixture of both processes. On one side, a process well meditated and organized, and on the other side, a process more free and spontaneous. I carefully select the models and their clothing before the photo sessions that take place in my studio. During this process I receive the help of many people that support me in production. However, I also enjoy following a process more random, like leaving my studio to look for other human features and faces that you can find in the streets. For instance, for E.merge I traveled to China and other countries in Southeast Asia to achieve a more complex mixture of features.


Disinfo: How do you consolidate these images — organize them as a repository of data?

Cecilia: I then pool together the material to create a rich bank of images from which I build my characters. This bank of images includes noses, lips, eyes, hairstyles, clothes, etc. that I use as raw material. To start the process of digital montage, I put all the pieces together to create the final images. The final product results from mixturing, manipulating and reinventing features taken from each picture. Working in this way allows me to not impose limits or rigid methodologies when I want to create an image.


Disinfo: How many photos go into a finished image?

Cecilia: I literally take hundreds of pictures in order to create a single image. I work from the saturation and exhaustion, either because the number of pictures I take and the long sessions in which models have to pose knowing that their personal images will be lost after the transformation and fusion with other images. I find this excess of images particularly interesting because it is a characteristic of our modernity and digital era. We are increasingly compelled to build an identity that is multiple, always changing and more and more fragmented. Therefore, when we try to find our own image in the world we can no longer trust in the fidelity of the mirror that only roughly provides us with a consistent perspective of who we are. Today we are dominated by the multiple perspectives of the kaleidoscope that fragments, divides, deforms and simultaneously makes the world more beautiful. In this sense, my portraits mimic this process by trying to find features and relations that harmonize the multiplicity of images.

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When Masks Fall

The hour of the Wolf is the hour between night and dawn, when most people die and most children are born, when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are most real, when the sleepless are haunted, when ghost and demons are most powerful.

— Ingmar Bergman. “The Hour of The Wolf” (from the movie script), 1967.

Beautiful, seductive, complex females. Monstrous Females. Blow.

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The monstrous as an aesthetic exercise has been approached countless times in the history of art. In contemporaneity many creators have been seduced into the space of otherness and the abject, as a banner we can lift the embodiments of delusion of Goya in his Black Paintings and The Disasters of War, or to visit (assist, no entendi que te referias con asistir) the work of David Cronenberg in The Fly, Tod Browings with Freaks, the otherness worked by Lynch, Bacon’s deformed faces, the sexual exaltation in Picasso and Kubin, Barney’s beautiful Chimeras, the twisted bodies of John Currin, or the “Frankensteinian” exercises of Cindy Sherman, who, like many other artists, have used this place as a sign of vulnerability, of the predatory condition, of the primary thanatics and self-destructive impulses of human beings.

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The monstrous in Blown intervenes from another place, an intimate place that must be unveiled, the investiture of the characters becomes their constitution since they are only investiture, there is no corporeality here, girl-women-automatons born of pure and subjective desire, we face the cancellation of the body as a possibility, the dilution of flesh is evident in the inability to grasp it as an object of desire, “No hay banda, no hay orquesta” says Lynch while we hear the sound of a trumpet “… It’s all an illusion.”

Then, once the reign of experience has been defeated, we allow ourselves to retreat to otherness.

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2011-21 Ovalo Blow-cat_1000

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The conditioning of the overlapping layers for the construction of the imagery in Blow comes from an intrinsic affair between the artist and his creation, there is no intention towards the monstrous as a mirror, rather as a generation of a beauty imbued with honesty, acceptance and pride an constituent of her created beings. The appeal of this bestiary is the infinite possibilities of empathy it suggest, the viewer is a relevant entity in the construction of identity of each of these beings, acting as a referential link projecting a particular pose of their own. These beast devoid of flesh and experience talk to us like Hoffmann’s Olympia enchanting us with her voice, perfect but just born, lacking history or trauma. The identity of each of our maidens is born from the dialect establish between their presence and each particular observer, is an assault, an unconscious theft that obeys vital impulses, they must steal our fictions and desires, must make it their own to not die senseless. This is the first breath of these new creatures.


The beauty of our chimeras is inscribed in undefined places, such as a wound. The fissures that open in each of their folds and overlaps lead to the perversion of scrutinizing the cut without blood that contains the only sexual exercise possible in them; there where perhaps we want to look we find nothing, there is no skin under the robes! – La imposible desnudez deviene del intercambio de significantes atendiendo nuevamente a la investidura- the impossible nudity becomes under the exchange of significant attend newly to investiture. Everything is exposed in the surface, this is all we have, the cruelty of exposed beauty, the screaming violent gesture of the images, in their innocent assumptions of our history, they’ve been beaten, abused, silenced. They are mirrors. They want to breathe, they have succeeded, the romantic division has closed in a breath. Born in “The Hour of The Wolf” these creatures have dropped their mask. Blow….


Chilean artist Cecilia Avendaño’s strange and evocative portraits mix photography, painting, and collage to create artificial beings constructed from aspects of real people. Currently on display at Stephen Romano Gallery in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood, her work narrows in on the concept of constructing identity while her process underscores the thematic premise.

After photographing different models, Cecilia merges different parts of their bodies to form one, entirely new and unreal woman. Her series “Blow” and “Pride” are comprised of large format photographs that “are born from a portion of reality” thereby imbuing the works with a surreal sense of what is real, and what is imagined. From there the photographs are printed on canvas, giving them a softer, lifelike quality. This is further emphasized by the installed electrical system behind the works meant to provoke movement and create the illusion of the women breathing.

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fig. 1 serie pride s:t fotografía y montaje digital 2009 120 x 80 cm


In “Pride”, by Cecilia Avendaño, the exotic becomes hypnotically attractive while proving a slight abnormality that cannot be narrowed down to any specific trait, resulting in an indistinguishable beauty. From each face multiple images come forth to subtly converge in a space which is halfway between the beautiful and the strange. Thus, through a rigorous manipulation of the technologies of image, these turn into a portrait of ambiguity and disturbance, an unavoidable mixture of innocence and evil. Its characters inhabit a monochrome background reminiscent of fiction cinema, suspended in an invisible landscape, a bizarre universe from which they incite the viewer with the penetrating and insidious look of a child who, not looking away, proudly reaffirms its undetermined origin.

Constanza Robles

fig. 2 : detalle serie pride s:t fotografía y montaje digital 2009 120 x 80 cm

fig. 3 serie pride s:t fotografía y montaje digital 2009 120 x 80 cm

fig. 4 serie pride s:t fotografía y montaje digital 2009 120 x 80 cm

fig. 5 serie pride s:t fotografía y montaje digital 2009 120 x 80 cm

fig. 6 serie pride s:t fotografía y montaje digital 2009 120 x 80 cm B

fig. 6 serie pride s:t fotografía y montaje digital 2009 120 x 80 cm

fig. 7 serie pride s:t fotografía y montaje digital 2009  120 x 80 cm

fig. 8 serie pride s:t fotografía y montaje digital 2009  120 x 80 cm

fig. 10 serie pride s:t fotografía y montaje digital 2008 120 x 80 cm

fig. 11 serie pride s:t fotografía y montaje digital 2009  120 x 80 cm

fig. 13 serie pride s:t fotografía y montaje digital 2009 80 x 80 cm


Courtesy of the Artist.


Portrait by Tomas Eyzaguirre