This publication is the first of its kind, focusing exclusively on the work of Demi, an American artist born in Cuba. Demi’s canvases, drawings and sculptures manifest childhood trauma as singular depictions of children in swirling, surrealist landscapes.
They are singular because her work defies easy categorization. Ever since it appeared in the 1980s after the artist—with the help of her husband, painter Arturo Rodríguez—taught herself how to paint, numerous critics have been claiming with certainty only one thing: that the artist’s artworks are strikingly original, combining an array of seemingly disparate styles, classifications, historical determinations, and cultural contexts. While her work is termed “naïve,” a designation she herself adopts, there’s actually nothingnaïve about it. Everything she does is meticulously planned and executed.
This important book, which is particularly relevant today, attempts to give Demi the attention she deserves, and parses through the many influences and political and personal contexts of her work; she’s celebrated for the hairless children, surrounded by abstract swirls of color; stereotypical toys turned nightmarish; and faces that are at once realistic and mutated. I see in her paintings echoes of many prominent female artists, such as Tracey Moffatt, whose subjects touch on deep wounds that never heal; KikiSmith, whose practice uses life, death, and resurrection as thematic signposts; and Frida Kahlo, whose surrealist and symbolist landscapes of pain and suffering question self-identity.