Past, Present, and Future at the Huntington


Cecilia Miguez gathers images from everyday life to create sculptures that evoke memories of childhood dreams, tribal icons, and even narrative fantasies, all the while maintaining a light- hearted view of the real world.


Cecilia Miguez in the North Vista. Steiner-Halperin photograph.





 Growing up in Uruguay Cecilia Miguez's favorite possession was an art book her mother bought for her in an antiques store, and her favorite painting reproduced in it was Thomas Lawrence's "Pinkie." So en­chanted was she that, at about age eleven, she copied the image in oils onto a glass lamp base that still stands on her mother's bedside table. On her first visit to the Huntington, after moving to Los Angeles in 1985, Miguez describes walking into the Thornton Portrait Gal­lery: "I could not believe my eyes. I did not know that the painting was there. It brought me so many memories and emo­tions. It was amazing to see the details, the real colors."

By that time Miguez, who was trained as a painter, had begun to work more seriously as a sculptor. "It was very hard to get the three-dimensionality I was looking for in a painting," she recalls, "so one day I started working with my hands, making volumes with clay. It was so exciting because I was no longer try­ing to create illusions of 3-D. The piece would develop its own light and shadows. It was such a natural process for me, and such a liberation to go from two dimensions to three."

Sarah Goodin Barrett Moulton: "Pinkie" by Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), 1794. Oil on canvas, 58 ¼ by 40 ¼ inches. One of the most fa¬mous of the English grand manner portraits acquired by Huntington, Pinkie occupies the wall facing Thomas Gains¬borough's iconic Jonathan Buttall: "The Blue Boy" of 1770 in the Thornton Portrait Gallery.



Her favorite medium is bronze, which she observes, "is very stable and very flexible, which allows me to make changes and to make multi­ples"-which is not to say that she creates editions. Every piece is one-of-a kind. Her figures often display the grace and proportions of ancient Greek sculpture or Renaissance portraits, although she quickly diverges from reality into the realms of the emotions and the spiritual through her use of "found" objects. "The found object is something that somebody made with another purpose," Miguez says. "It's very special when I hold some of those objects and think about somebody else working with them. They give incredible vibra­tions to my work." When she incorporates a tiny box she has picked up at a flea market into a figure, for instance, it becomes the holder of secrets or dreams; a funnel turned into a hat in one of Miguez's works has references to Hieronymus Bosch, to medieval helmets, or even to a "well-oiled brain," writes scholar Abbas Daneshvari.

Madonna and Child by Rogier van der Weyden (c. 1400-1464), c. 1460. Oil on masonite, transferred from canvas, originally on panel, 20 ½ by 13 ⅝ inches. Arabel¬la D. Huntington Memorial Art Collection.





A long-time visitor to the Huntington, Miguez appreciates it not just for its extraordinary hold­ings but "as a calm peaceful place to think and get inspired-a very special corner of the universe." She is photographed in the North Vista, with its long view to the San Gabriel Mountains, among seventeenth-century garden sculptures acquired by Huntington in 1922. In choosing a favorite object Miguez says she always goes back to Ro­gier van der Weyden's Madonna and Child, one of a small group of Renaissance paintings col­lected by Arabella Huntington and bequeathed to her son Archer, who gave them to Henry Huntington for the Arabella D. Huntington Memorial Art Collection. "I love the delicacy of the faces," says Miguez. "I adore the gold leaf background, so abstract, suggesting unseen spaces where light becomes transformed into an enchanting air, enriched by the vibratory effect of the thoughts the Madonna is having, a world unreachable, but beautifully suggested by the artist."

Detail of The Blue Glove by Cecilia Miguez, 2004. Bronze, wood, and gold leaf; height (overall) 60, width 17, depth 11 inches. Photograph courtesy of Louis Stern Fine Arts, Los Angeles.





At the moment Miguez is at work on a series of sculptures entitled "The Sound of the Thought," which will explore a perhaps equally unreachable world-the silence and introspection just prior to "a it a vibration, an energy, a memo­ry?" We look forward to seeing how she suggests these ideas in her new work.

The Recipe by Miguez, 1911. Bronze and found objects; height 20 inches. Louis Stern Fine Arts photograph.

[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi

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