In her latest project, Destroyer, photographer and performance artist Mar Cuervo vents her rage by crushing beloved confectionary into piles of crumbs and jelly. It’s a feminist expression of that emotion considered most un-feminine—anger.
Feminist themes are present in Cuervo's work as a photographer, but lately she’s expanded her performance practice. "Before, I used to point the camera toward other women and other scenarios and now I just realized that my body can address what a lot of women feel,” she writes. “Especially those small and big iniquities and imbalances that we face everyday."
All of the localized fury in Destroyer is directed at dessert, food that, like steak and yogurt, is implicitly gendered. This is a theme in her work; an older project, Routine is making me Erratic, found the LA-based artist creating short videos of herself applying nail polish and make up. In each, she starts by applying the cosmetics in the socially accepted fashion—pencilling in eyeliner, painting on polish—only to keep on applying the makeup until her eyelids are caked in liner and her fingers are drowned in red.
"They both have a strong feminist message,” she writes of the two projects. “The more I read and the more I get inspired by other women artists, the more I realize of the importance of being angry and taking action towards all those iniquities."
Cake isn’t oppression, of course, and make-up, though it may sometimes be a tool of the patriarchy, isn’t a primary mechanism by which it operates. Cuervo’s expressions of anger are, if taken at face value, unproductive. But this makes them all the more relatable and real to anyone who’s felt stigmatized and powerless in the face of large-scale institutional oppression. Of her anger, Cuervo says that “some of [it comes] from simple things like the pressure women face from media every single minute of our lives (weight loss, hair, make up, looks, 'You look gorgeous' kind of statements), on the streets (an attempt of rape in my building a month ago), in their jobs, with 'having it all,' 'balancing career and family.' Yes, it maybe a little passive aggressive, but I want to make visual in Destroyer what I would do to all those things!"
"I put on some good old Pantera, [Rage Against the Machine]… go to my closest 99c store, [choose] the cutest little piece of edible object, go home and destroy it."
To learn more about Mar Cuervo's work, click here.