The interdisciplinary practice of Donna Huanca (b. 1980, Chicago, IL) evolves across painting, sculpture, performance, choreography, video and sound, crafting a unique visual language based in collaboration and innovation. At the very heart of her oeuvre is an exploration of the human body and its relationship to space and identity. Her live sculptural pieces, or in the artist’s words, ‘original paintings’, work primarily with the nude female body, drawing particular attention to the skin as a complex surface via which we experience the world around us. Largely collaborative, the partnership between artist and model is imperative to Huanca’s practice. By exposing the naked body, while at the same time concealing it beneath layers of paint, cosmetics and latex, Huanca and her performers urge the viewer to confront their own instinctive response to the human form, which, in the artist’s hands, is both familiar and distorted, decorative and abstract.
Huanca’s two-dimensional painting practice is fundamentally linked to the performative elements of her oeuvre. Photographs of her performers’ decorated bodies are blown up and transposed to canvas, where they are re-worked with paint. Gesture is enlarged and amplified; the soundlessness of her performances reverberates across her abstract compositions. During this process, Huanca engages with the colours and forms painted on her models, resulting in a genuine interaction between the ephemeral choreography of performance art and the permanence of painting. The glacial movements of her wordless performers result in a tactile painting practice rooted both in natural process and mediated dialogue, which freezes movement in a static medium that nonetheless hints at its inspiration and origins.