Happy Family, from the Cement Sculptures series, questions the conventional family pattern – established through Catholicism’s social doctrine – as well as its representation in classical statuary. The set composed of two cement sculptures and a rubber toy, raises the conventional family from vulgarity, symbolizing the Holy Family, and bringing along an unexpected and metaphorical approach to Christmas.
As usual, the nature of Joana Vasconcelos' creative process departs once more from a reflection on everyday life and the subsequent decontextualization and subversion of objects from everyday life. In this case, the artist requests two classic models, popularized by mass-produced Mediterranic statuary, frequently used in garden decorations, to convey an unlikely association between tradition and contemporaneity, the sacred and the profane. Here, in an opposite movement of what usually happens with most of her body of work, the artist brings the outside indoors.
The two grand pieces, flanking Jesus’ cradle – hand painted and covered in intricate handmade cotton crochet – symbolise the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph. But they are, ironically, representations of Roman Spring nymph, Flora, and the mythological Roman god of wine, Bacchus. These sensuous figures, ambiguously protected and imprisoned by this second skin, provide a vast spectrum of analysis, triggered by the beauty and strangeness that the result of the operation produces: usually restrained, the naperon seductively covers the bodies of the three figures.
Crochet belongs to our collective memory and is deeply imbued with family memories. It has always been a technique confined to the home – to women who had not yet conquered their place in the labour market and who taught this traditional technique to their daughters – sprinkling our grandmothers' houses, turning the mere industrial television into an object of domestic worship. Recycling such iconographic elements and familiar languages, Joana Vasconcelos powerfully explores once more the popular imaginarium and the artisan/industrial dichotomy.