The Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) will draw connections between culture and nature with real stories of Peruvian women in “Jordy R. Poma - Las Curiosas,” on view Sept. 27, 2023-Jan. 28, 2024. The exhibition is the second solo show in TMA’s newly renovated Robert C. and Susan Savage Community Gallery. The space increases exposure for Ohio artists by providing a venue for them to present and sell their work. The gallery also invites local and regional art enthusiasts to build their art collections with works made in the community.
“Las Curiosas” features sculptures that honor curanderas, Peruvian women who have for generations administered alternative medicine to residents in small communities who lack access to traditional medical care. Referred to as witches in some regions, these healers and midwives find remedies in plants, a person’s energy and rituals that unlock pathways to various spirits.
“I aim to honor these women and their profound influence on my identity as an artist. My sculptures are an homage to their enduring spirit and unyielding strength. Growing up among them, I witnessed their unwavering resolve, their bond with nature and their intuitive understanding of the power of plants, the elements and the moon,” Poma said in his artist statement.
Childhood experiences inspired Poma’s work. He has fond memories of time spent in the Peruvian jungle hunting and fishing with his grandmothers and recalls elders who would use the moon as a guide for planting and harvesting. His connection to clay precedes his birth. When his mother was pregnant, she craved wild clay. Today, Poma uses clay to explore his heritage and tell the stories of women who endured hardships and shared their wisdom with others.
The sculptures on view at TMA reflect non-fictional accounts of women from Mishquiyacu, Peru. “Gladis” depicts a woman with frogs atop her head and on her shoulder. It tells the story of an energetic and brave woman who grew up in Chazuta, Peru and hunted frogs for food as a child. She also used the amphibians to make water that prevented broken bones. Although frogs are scarce near her current home in Mishquiyacu, she continues to hold several traditions, including the use of medicinal plants for bronchitis, stomach pain, coughs and other ailments.
“Manuela” tells the story of a Mishquiyacu native who learned to grow corn, plantains, beans and cacao as a child. Just as her parents taught her to work on the land to avoid hunger, she teaches her four children the same. Today, Manuela travels around the region to collect plants and educate others about their healing properties. She also provides reproductive care, shares love spells, offers lessons in weaving and more.
Other sculptures in the exhibition showcase the significance of plants. Mushrooms are the focus of “Roots” and “Trumpets.” Poma notes that “mushrooms and other fungi are the most successful organisms on Earth” because of their resilience and ability to connect plants by attaching to their roots and spreading underground. The artist credits the fungi for sustaining some of the life on land.
By bringing the women and the plants together, Poma offers a snapshot of Peruvian cultural traditions that span centuries, with curanderas at the center. “I want to encapsulate their stories, their resilience and the profound wisdom they carry,” Poma said. “I hope ‘Las Curiosas’ invites you to connect with Mother Nature and care for her. I hope it invites you to respect other ways of living and indigenous cultures and to connect first with yourself and others.”
An artist reception that is free and open to the public will be held on Sept. 29 from 4-6 p.m. in the Robert C. and Susan Savage Community Gallery. The reception will include remarks from Poma and Peruvian-inspired refreshments.