LOS ANGELES — For a few months in the spring of 2020, Isabelle Albuquerque tried to live like a deer. She spent time here at Griffith Park around dusk, watching as the animals emerged. She ate with them and like them, adopting their diet of only raw vegetables, fruits and nuts, including a lot of grass. Something like method acting, it was her way of preparing to create a sculpture merging her body and that of a deer, complete with hooves.
This rather feral artwork is now on view at Jeffrey Deitch in New York as part of her series “Orgy for Ten People in One Body” (through Jan. 28), featuring 10 sculptures of the artist’s body captured in different mediums in moments of ecstasy or metamorphosis or both. One bronze sculpture reimagines the classical myth of Leda and the Swan, with a saxophone replacing the bird, so the female figure appears to be making music rather than being violated. “With every sculpture in ‘Orgy,’ desire and power are not projected onto the body but emanate from within,” Albuquerque, 41, said.
“Orgy” is Albuquerque’s first solo show in New York, but she and her younger sister, the dancer and choreographer Jasmine Albuquerque, 39, grew up immersed in the art world. Their mother is Lita Albuquerque, 76, a Los Angeles artist with Tunisian roots and an international exhibition history capped by “Liquid Light,” a video installation at the 2022 Venice Biennale. It featured a 25th-century astronaut who travels to Earth to share her insights about our interconnected place in the universe. A similar theme appears in her own ephemeral but memorable land art: Lita once arranged 99 beautiful blue orbs on an ice shelf in Antarctica as a way of mapping the stars above onto the earth and highlighting the interdependencies of light and matter, stars and humans, cosmos and earth.
The astronaut in Lita’s video was played by her daughter Jasmine, who has worked on movement for musicians including St. Vincent and Rihanna through the director Philippa Price. Recently, Jasmine choreographed the artist Cassils’s first dance project, “Human Measure,” featuring six transgender and nonbinary performers in a setting simulating a darkroom. A New York venue is currently in the works.
The three artists, who live in Los Angeles, come from a lineage of powerful Tunisian women. They met in December at Isabelle’s studio on a hot afternoon to talk about their matrilineal roots, making full-body art and the 2018 Woolsey Fire that destroyed their family home in Malibu and changed their creative priorities. Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Your ancestry is rich with these examples of strong female artists. What do you know about their work?
LITA ALBUQUERQUE My mother grew up in Tunis in a high-society Jewish family and then went to Paris at age 20 to have her play produced. But she’s not getting anywhere as a woman in 1930, so she decides to pretend she’s …….