Nereida Patricia first appeared on the Chicago art scene with “Death Fantasy,” the unforgettable 2019 exhibition at Prairie. The artist, who at the time was an undergraduate at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, brought magic and myth into the exhibition space. The Pilsen gallery’s pool-blue walls and bright lighting transformed the space into an aquatic fantasy, so much so it felt out of place that no scent of chlorine or saltwater wafted through. On the walls were three reliefs: “Ms. Colombia,” “Thinking About Death” and “Burial Sequence.” Patricia takes inspiration from arpillera tapestries, a form of women’s craft-turned-protest art that originated in Chile under the Pinochet regime and which spread across Latin America. Patricia, who is Peruvian, grew up around those images. Materially, she is drawn to things that are sparkly, and that you wouldn’t typically think of as fine-art media. Walking closely to Patricia’s relief—made of glass beads, glass dust, glitter acrylic, paper clay and wood—it’s a surprise to see the beads catch the light so effervescently. The visual playfulness and sense of wonder from the glittering beads balance the narrative that Patricia has constructed. Patricia’s work often deals with the gender-based violence, death and erasure of trans women, particularly Black trans women. She honors their lives by creating artworks that imagine new mythologies for these women who have paved the way for the LGBTQI+ community, as well as more personally for Patricia herself.
“Trans people are magic,” she says. “There’s this whole kind of magic and mythology that I’m always chipping away at.” Her work is a beautiful and healing gesture for trans and LGBTQI+ people who yearn to connect with their history and their elders.