contemporary art / history of art

Artwork of the month / September 2020

Permanent Maze
Katia Miranda

Oil on linen
50 cm x 50 cm


Katia Miranda’s oil painting “Permanent Maze” is part of a series with the same name. The square picture shows a cut-out of loosely intertwined white/grey and yellow/orange ribbons. They are lying on a grey, slightly brown textile support, which is in fact the raw canvas. Although the arrangement on the pure linen and the style with an accurate shadowing are implying a photo-realistic manner, the material of the ribbons is not clearly to identify. By the gentile curves, they could be textile ties or even paper. Only one stripe, in the lower left corner, is formed as a corkscrew curl. In doing so, it reminds ribbon used to decorate presents.

Actually, the pictured straps are plastic packing belts, used to stabilise cardboard parcels. In this special case, they are offered by a Guatemalan recycling institution, which collects these tapes to dispose it. Alas, without the possibility to recycle them in the country. This is somehow embarrassing, since the packing belts are used for most of the goods entering Guatemala, especially for electric appliances. Katia wanted to draw attention to this problem. However, the issue of more and more plastic waste, also by this single use tapes exists worldwide. Similar plastic packing belts are used increasingly, due to the steadily growing mail-order business. A glance to the past shows that in former times packing tapes were made of natural fibre, like sisal and hemp. Not only was the multiple use possibility an advantage, but also the biodegradability. Unfortunately, these parcel strings are only used for individual packaging in nowadays. For the most part of industrialised mailing of goods, which is mostly automated, plastic packing belts are more practical. In consequence, our global society is producing more and more plastic waste. In doing so, we are polluting our planet.

With her typical photo- or hyper realistic style, Katia stages once again a common throw-away product in a pleasant context. Whereas the contrast between the plastic tape and natural fibre is underlined by the untreated background. Additionally, the raw linen reminds by its colour to the former parcel string. In this way, the artist deplores not only environmental impact of our lifestyle, but also hints at alternatives.

By the title “Permanent Maze”, Katia illustrates on one hand the tangle of the depicted packing belts. On the other hand, she points at the contradictions of our lifestyle. In many ways, we are benefitting of the globalisation. In this case, it is the steady supply of goods in nearly every corner of the world. However, at the same time, we are risking the destruction of our environment and with this our basis of life. Somehow, we got lost in a permanent maze.

Arranged as part of a vertical triptych our artwork of the month is placed on the top. Thereunder is a similar painting. The undermost oeuvre is not a painting, but here the original packing belts are protruding out of the frame. This installation belongs to the museum MURB of the Rozas-Botran foundation at Universidad del Istmo in Guatemala. Moreover, Katia made a 6 m x 6 m installation of these packing belts, which has been shown in many public spaces in Guatemala.


Katia Miranda

Born in 1961 in El Salvador, Katia’s passion since her childhood was the dance. In consequence, she turned it into her profession and danced for 25 years with several companies in her home country, in the United States and in Guatemala. Furthermore, she studied Arts Management at the University of Tampa, Florida, received in 1984 her Bachelor of Science degree with the specialisation in visual arts and managed art galleries in Florida and El Salvador. After her marriage, she raised her children and worked in the family business.

Some years ago, Katia restarted to focus on visual arts and found here a new way to express herself. Mainly she paints inspired by her preparative photos, but she also creates self-reliant photos, sculptures and installations. Her working process is very thorough, since she makes numerous preliminary studies, before starting the actual execution. This might be a habit, which she learned in her longstanding carrier as dancer, where perseverance and hard labour were essential. The resulting oeuvres express that rigour, in particular the oil paintings, which are hyper-realistic with attention to details, like in our artwork of the month November 2017, where the onlooker might perceive the content of a plastic bag.

Katia is particularly attracted by plastic bags: their origin, their short time usage and their future existence as element of pollution. This approach is a result of an intensive reflexion about humans’ attitude to wrap almost everything. Not only are we wrapping objects (aliments, merchandises) and ourselves (garments) for protection, but often enough as well to conceal. An expensive outfit might be a camouflage; an unapproachable behaviour could mask true feelings; a shopping bag hides purchased goods. In addition, the wrapping can be an expression of brand loyalty and class affiliation.

Instead of denouncing the negative aspects of wrapping and especially the impact of plastic on our environment, Katia displays her beloved plastic bags like a luxury product and draws our attention to them. It is the artists’ invitation to us, to reflect about our handling with pollutant materials.

It is certainly no coincidence that the Colombian fashion designer Francesca Miranda was in 2016 so inspired by Katia’s paintings, that she created a series of dresses and purses after her paintings. Also, she took part in the group exhibition “Imago Mundi/Guatemala” by the collection of the Italian fashion entrepreneur Luciano Benetton. Beyond that, since 2009 the artist participates regularly in collective shows in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. In 2016, she had her first solo exhibition in Colombia and in 2017 her works travelled for the first time to the United States (Naples, Florida) and Europe (Vienna, Austria and Florence, Italy).

At the same time, Katia started the new series “Permanent Maze”, where she focused on packing belts. As the title indicates, the painted presentation of this packaging material is not like a medial staging, but a cut-out from a larger context and shows a seemingly disordered tangle of tapes. However, the colouring is aesthetically appealing. Additionally, she added a three-dimensional version, where real packing belts protrude out of the frame. One of the paintings of “Permanent Maze” is artwork of the month in September 2020.

Besides continual participations in group exhibitions in Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico and the United States, Katia had two solo shows in Guatemala in 2019. “Plástico fantástico” at the Galeria Alianza Francesa included an interactive installation with plastic waste. Whereas she focussed with “Tantum aqua” at the Galería El Attico on another element: water.

Katia lives and works in Guatemala City.