HOW WE SEE OURSELVES. Revisiting women´s images

Victoria Combalia

Txaro Fontalba´s theme also concerns the reversibility of the sexual organs, and even the very Concepts of masculine and feminine. This urinal, a specifically masculine object, has been turned into a uterus, a womb, a lap. The work takes its initial reference from the famous urinal of Duchamp, Fountain, rejected in the exhibition of the Independent Artist´s Society of New York in 1917. Duchamp himself played with attaching a bisexual meaning to it – in the Boîte verte we read: “there is nothing beyond: for female, the urinal and we live off it”; what is more, there is a popular use of the word “Fontaine” in French, to mean the “female sex”. To go further into this comparison, let us remember that Alfred Stieglitz photographed it, stressing the forms curves of the object, and the art critic Louise Norton pointed out its similarities with a Buddha or feminine curves.

The most interesting thing about it is that the Fountain, as it has been pointed out, was an echo of another scandalous work, Princesse X, by Brancusi, which was a representation of feminity which was done, however, through an unmistakably phallic form, and which was presented in the same exhibition of the Independent Artists´ Society in 1917. So, as Bernard Marcadé pointed out, “while Duchmp´s work may be understook as the cross-dressing of the female sex into an urinal, that of Brancusi would be the disguising of the phallus sculpted (as opposed to the feminine quality of the painting) as a woman´s portrait”.

To this story, which is even more complex and impossible to summarise here, Txaro Fontalba adds a further turn of the screw: the urinal, surrounded by a kind of string netting, becomes a face as well as an uterus. Furthermore, turned 90º, the urinal is an empty face, with its connection to the wall of a neck and its string netting as hair, or even an eighteenth century wig. However, Fontalba has done so in such a way that the hair can also be read as the silhouette of a female body, with its hips and the beginning of its thighs coming out of a hollow, concave belly, that is to say, a uterus. The face-uterus relationship put forward by the title does not seem chance to us: is motherhood women´s “true” face, her true identity? Not at all, the artist seems to tell us, as this face, this identity, simultaneously possesses masculine elements (the urinal). Txaro Fontalba exhibites last year and she herself wrote about it: “Plugs, diaphragms, hearts; elements of closure and protection; images and objects of an antidemographic, contraceptive iconography, in opposition to the traditional feminine iconography produce in art, philosophy, religion, culture.” So, with her urinal-uterus, Txaro Fontalba continues her demystifying task which is critical of the patterns established for women: that of feminity, that of maternity.

Rostro-utero-txaro-fontalba

Rostro-útero, 1996.

Urinario, cuerda, gomaespuma y esmalte. 71x54x30 cm.

Círculo de Bellas Artes. Madrid. 1999

Tecla Sala. Hospitalet de Llobregat. Barcelona. 1998

CÓMO NOS VEMOS