Madalena Santos Reinbolt
1919, Vitória da Conquista | BA - Brazil
1977, Petrópolis | RJ - Brazil
From the tapestries by Madalena Santos Reinbolt we can say the same about the Bayeux tapestry made in the town of the same name in 1255: they are first a decorated fabric, embroidered, because they are made with a needle and not with a loom. And Madalena worked her “woolens squares” using 154 needles, which took an hour to thread in various colors. She wanted to have the colors ready and available, like a painter’s palette, to use them like brushstrokes on the tow or canvas. The needles would then become an extension of her hand, like the brush to the painter. That was how she achieved the moving surface of her tapestries, boosted by the versatile direction imprinted on the stitching threads. Her need to give volume to the textures is shown in the application of small groups of jersey or linen, in a variety of relief, that interweave uniformly with the wool embroidery, and that are applied particularly to the leaves of trees. The unusual texture and bright colors produce their best result when she embroiders on hemp – almost all her works are based on it. The irregular and flexible weave of the hemp does not influence the direction of the needle stitching and adapts perfectly to the Expressionist impetus of Madalena’s work. Her work is populated with long-ago countryside reminiscences, truly an aetas aurea, which comprised her favorite themes of her “pictures with paint” begun around 1950, and her “picture of wool”, whose production dates from 1969.
The farming and cattle raising life of the Bahia countryside is the key to Madalena’s plastic art, as is seen in her comments on her work. Saying that ”her mind is full of planets”, Madalena wrote about the world with her embroidered figures. Planets, sun, moon, and stars. Many different kinds of birds, whose plumage she knew in detail and the onomatopoetic clef with the true intimacy of a backlander. A wide variety of fauna: oxen, sheep, elephants, leopards and monkeys. Presence and plant germination of extremely diversified shape and texture. Men and women chained to the great timeless and cosmic zone of her imaginative genesis. The cultural data gathered by the artist are contained in this vehement flourishing cosmogony. From myths of the time when animals talked and monkeys taught how to satisfy hunger with the fruit of the Tree of Father Bié, to Catholicism, and the view of the world touched by new communication media and by the life of the large urban centers. Her creation emerged from all those experiences, which makes us agree with Bachelard that “for a decidedly mythical life there are no subaltern gods” in art. Madalena was born on a small ranch in Vitória da Conquista, Bahia State. She left her town when around 20 years old to work as a domestic servant in Salvador, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Petrópolis, until her death in 1977. She was encouraged to paint by her employer Lota Macedo Soares, for whom she worked as a housekeeper’ in Petrópolis. Her work was analyzed for the first time in an essay by Lélia Coelho Frota, in the book Mitopoética de nove artistas brasileiros (1975), and is found in museums and private collections.
Source: Little Dictionary of the Brazilian People’s Art – 20th Century, by anthropologist and poet Lélia Coelho Frota
1991 A Mata, Museum of Contemporary Art of the University of São Paulo, (MAC/USP), São Paulo, SP, Brazil
2006-2007 Viva Cultura Viva do Povo Brasileiro, Afro Brazil Museum, São Paulo, SP, Brazil