Shot to the heart: the colours of a homeland
For the Herald
Artist Nora Iniesta goes beyond stereotypes to show Buenos Aires in white and sky-blueNora Iniesta must be one of the only people who remember school events with such particular fondness. What was to most a boring couple of hours where school principals gave a speech on the importance of whatever historical figure was to be honoured that day, to Iniesta was an instance of pride. She remembers the flag entering the room and how white the starched school aprons looked. It was from these emotional experiences that her love of her homeland was born and, with it, her signature as an artist.
The homeland theme is a recurring one in most of her work, and finds its way into her new book, Buenos Aires in White and Light Blue, Another Geography, which was published with the support of the Ministry of Culture of BA City. What binds these photographs together is quite simple: they are all images taken in Buenos Aires of scenes, objects or buildings that are white and sky-blue. It is in the key of these two colours that Iniesta finds the homeland present in her everyday life.
“I’ve been working with white and light blue, the colours of my country’s flag, for years now,” Iniesta told the Herald. “It’s not something I think about or rationally try to do: it just comes to me. It’s like I have a skewed perception of things.” Ricardo Blanco, the President of National Fine Arts Academy, wrote an introduction to the book where he explained Iniesta’s vision of the city in a similar way. He wrote of the book that it “attests to the indisputable fact that Nora Iniesta is an Argentine artist. It evidences the dogged vision of someone who sees beyond what we see in our failure to capture the symbolic meaning of an image.”
It is precisely this symbolism that makes the book interesting. The photographs go beyond the mere stereotype of what a patriotic scene or object should look like. There are less than five pictures of flags in it but many more of people walking down the streets of Buenos Aires, passers-by who happened to be wearing white and sky-blue clothes, or listening to music in headphones of those very colours. One of the most poignant pictures in the book is one of a man wearing a Vans off-the-wall cap, or even one of a lit sign of a parking lot downtown. The pictures of architecture, which mostly illustrate the many sky-blue windows that look onto the streets of Buenos Aires — or the ones that reflect its skies — are particularly stunning.
It is this wide range of portraits that present us an idea of homeland that is far more enriching than the one which stays within the boundaries of the flag or the cockade. In the end, the quest is not that of white and light blue objects, but rather one whose objective is to shine a light on the presence of patriotism everywhere. In the words of Ricardo Blanco, “in graphic design, the colours white and light blue can be seen as lacking power, perhaps because we see only the colours themselves rather than what they represent: the nation.” Iniesta’s triumph is, then, not to have found many scenes in the same colour palette, but to have attached to them a meaning far deeper than the mere look of its colours.
A question, however, arises from her work. If her ultimate goal is to work with the concept of the homeland and to illustrate its presence in the streets of our city, it is necessary for us to ask ourselves: what is the homeland? How can a word with so much history and that has been put to use by so many different ideologies be pinned down to just one definition? Iniesta answered that by defining it as “my childhood, a sense of belonging.” Through her work, she seems to be answering the question by making a statement out of these two colours. In her portraits as an artist, the homeland is not a political or ideological concept, but a symbolic one, one that has far more to do with her feelings towards her home than with her rational thoughts about it.