The use of handkerchiefs dates ancestral times.
In the Persian civilization, as well as in China, these regal objects existed since the XIII century B.C. Handkerchiefs, veils and scarves have traveled trough time and have gone trough fashion phases: as luxury objects, signs of frivolity and seduction or status-symbol, they were enriched by the time being with colors and ornaments, until to fade definitely after the 1st world war. Hence, replaced by tissue handkerchiefs. Amongst early examples history reminds, likely messages tight to the handkerchiefs, we find Cleopatra. The Egyptian queen used to ship veils socked by her tears, to Mark Antony, as a token of her love.
This preamble to introduce a short reflection on not-conventional forms of Art.
Cindy Sherman, involved in a specific project at “The 55 Biennale of Venice” (2013), has therefore presented ‘Los Paños’ at the exhibition, decorated hand-made handkerchiefs created by jailed people, mostly Mexicans, spread inside the southwest U.S. penitentiaries. These kerchiefs, created by specialized prisoners, who often offer their qualified workmanship to newcomers, reveal a universe of thoughts, memories and emotions which are in contrast with the inhuman character of imprisonment.
This form of Art was born within a specific context, the prison, possessing intrinsic value to be destined to parents, relatives and friends and, in the past, also to women willingly to have unusual correspondence with the prisoners.
Hence, the outer environment these objects are directed to, remains still ‘close and intimate’.
Here is, then, the recognition of these objects of affection, work of Art, coinciding with a ‘voyeuristic act’. Those works that, by definition, are created as private spaces, theatre of dreams, hopes, fear or delusion, they become under the spectators’ eyes an exploration into unknown aspects, sometimes taboos, of those ones marginalized by society.