BIOGRAPHY

Isabel Mendes da Cunha

1924, Itinga, Vale do Jequitinhonha | MG - Brazil

2014, Itinga, Vale do Jequitinhonha | MG - Brazil

Her mother was a pot maker, her father was a farmhand, and her late husband a cowboy. Her early figures, also introduced by her into the region in the early 1970s, consisted of oxen, horsemen, birds on branches, small Nativity scenes, which were finished with tabatinga – a kind of white clay. She would also make more modern goods than the usual regional selection of earthenware: sets for bean dishes, ashtrays, and dinner sets. When she became a widow she went to live with her children in Santana, where she then began in 1978to create large-scale wedding couples, women breastfeeding, matrons and girls, which became known all over Brazil. To increase the size of her sculptures, she increased the size of her furnaces on her own and diversified the tones of clay used in the faces and clothes of the figures or “dolls”. At first the heads of these large figures were removable, an idea from her original concept of water jars. After a time, the heads joined the body and eventually became part of the sculptures, losing all utility traces and finally moving on to the urban standards of the aesthetic field. Isabel sells directly to buyers in the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and São Paulo, and is the only artist in the entire Valley of Jequitinhonha, besides Ulisses Pereira Chaves, to achieve at least fair prices for her work. She gives extraordinary expression to the mestizo, white or black faces of her women, always with great dignity and as if in deep thought. In the late 1990s, she told me that she makes figures of a “poor woman and a rich woman, since everyone is a child of God”. As frequently happens when a skilled master is found in the popular milieu, she would train disciples, at first those in her own home.

Her son-in-law, João Pereira de Andrade (1952), today with his own themes, creates more sensual half-naked women, as well as girls at windows, men, poor kids, pregnant mothers, and wedding couples. Isabel’s son Amadeu Mendes – who still work partime as a peasant helped his mother in the initial preparation of the figures before he married Mercina, and is also a good animalist. Her daughters Maria Madalena and Glória are skilled in the technique of building a more secure figure, and her granddaughter Andréa Pereira de Andrade (1981) lends a lot of personality to the characters that she makes from clay and paints in sophisticated tones of gray, white and black, and earth colors. Also from Isabel’s “school” we can mention Placedina Fernandes Nascimento, who died young, and who would give a remarkable shape to the slanting eyes and sometimes angular faces of her more dramatic breastfeeding mothers. Marina de Mello e Sousa (SAP, 59, 1995) says that Isabel shares her knowledge “with the pleasure of the genuine master” with anyone who visits her, and so “created around her a school of cerasmists, involving every member of her family living in Santana and many other people from the place”. Izabel has a participated in exhibitions in capitals in Southeast Brazil since the 1980s, and her work is found in the main museums of popular art in Brazil.

Source: Little Dictionary of the Brazilian People’s Art – 20th Century, by anthropologist and poet Lélia Coelho Frota

CV

Individual Exhibitions: 


2010 Isabel Mendes da Cunha | Ceramics , Station Gallery , São Paulo, SP, Brazil


 


Collective Exhibitions:


2020 Women in Folk Art, Galeria Estação, São Paulo, SP, Brasil


2012 - 2013 Janet Costa "Look ," Janet Coast Museum , Niteroi, RJ, Brazil


2012 Histoires de Voir - Show and Tell , Fondation Cartier , Paris, France 


2012 Stubbornness of Imagination -Dec Brazilian artists , Imperial Palace Cultural Center, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil


2012 Stubbornness of Imagination  -Dec Brazilian artists , Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo, SP, Brazil


2010 Pure Blends , Pavilion of Brazilian Cultures, Pq. Ibirapuera, São Paulo, SP, Brazil


2007 The size of Brazil : Folk Art Shows , SESC Paulista , São Paulo, SP, Brazil


2006 Exhibition Santander , Santander Cultural Center , Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil


2005 Year of Brazil in France , Carreau du Temple , the Marais - Paris, France


2004 Form , Color and Expression : a collection of Brazilian art , Station Gallery , São Paulo, SP, Brazil


2000 Shows the Rediscovery - Brazil 500 years | Folk Art , Takano Publisher , São Paulo, SP, Brazil


1995 The Heirs of the Night: fragments of the imaginary black : 300 years of Zumbi , Ministry of Culture , Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil


Public Collections:


Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil


MAM - Rio de Janeiro , Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil


AfroBrasil Museum , São Paulo, SP, Brazil


Fondation Cartier pour l'art Comtemporain, Paris, France


Pavilion of Brazilian Cultures, São Paulo, SP, Brazil


Selected Publications:


2020 Women in Folk Art, Galeria Estação, São Paulo, SP, Brasil


2012 A Look Janet Costa , JaneteCosta Museum , Niterói, RJ, Brazil


2012 Histoires de Voir - Show and Tell , Fondation Cartier , Paris, France


2012 Stubbornness of Imagination Ten Brazilian artists - IIPB , São Paulo, SP, Brazil


2010 Pavilion of Brazilian Cultures : Pure Blends , São Paulo, SP, Brazil


2010 Isabel Mendes da Cunha | Ceramics , Station Gallery , São Paulo, SP, Brazil


2007 Live Live Culture of the Brazilian people , AfroBrasil Museum , São Paulo, SP, Brazil


2005 Little Book of the Art of the Brazilian People : the twentieth century , Publisher Airship , Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil


2005 POP Brazil : The Folk Art and Popular Art in 2002 , Centro Cultural Banco do Brazil , São Paulo, SP, Brazil


2000 Shows the Rediscovery - Brazil 500 years | Folk Art , Takano Publisher , São Paulo, SP, Brazil


2000 The Heirs of the Night: fragments of the imaginary black : 300 years of Zumbi , Ministry of Culture , Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil


1992 Live the Brazilian People : crafts and folk art , Publisher New Frontiers , Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil

EXHIBITIONS

encerrado

SP-Arte 2014

02.03.2014 - 06.03.2014
encerrado
são paulo

Izabel Mendes da Cunha | Ceramic Works

07.12.2009 - 10.03.2010
encerrado
são paulo

Women in Folk Art

09.03.2020 - 09.05.2020
encerrado

11.04.2018 - 15.04.2018
encerrado

Histoires de Voir – Show and Tell | 2012

15.05.2012 - 21.10.2012
encerrado
são paulo

Janete Costa: A Glance

16.12.2012 - 31.03.2013
encerrado

2010 Art Exhibition

17.08.2010 - 22.08.2010