Donna Huanca, an artist of Bolivian-American descent, creates art that challenges the male gaze while exploring narratives that center on feminine and indigenous perspectives, as well as mark-making. Her installations, which often incorporate painting, sculpture, and live performance, are intricately woven into the specific architectural spaces in which they are presented. Huanca’s art is deeply rooted in ritual practice and serves as a conduit for transcendence, meditation, and transformation.
In 2022, Huanca created a captivating and immersive architectural environment for her commissioned exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, Washington. The space featured a vast stage of interlocking ovoid/cellular forms, landscaped with white sand and six mirrored “screen” sculptures, along with a selection of other sculptural work. Surrounding the gallery were four mural-sized paintings, each representing one of the four seasons. Huanca’s goal was to provide viewers with a complete sensory experience, engaging them in a kaleidoscopic exploration of their own reflection, the works on display, as well as sound and olfactory pieces. By inducing a slippage of space and time, the installation encouraged participants to lose themselves while also finding themselves within the transformative and immersive environment.
Huanca defies the male gaze and decolonizes contemporary art by blending performance and paint. Her multidisciplinary installations feature painted models, referred to by Huanca as “skin paintings,” situated in serene environments created using sculpture, painting, photography, sound, and scent. Throughout her work, symbolic gestures are abundant, such as rectangular free-standing paintings representing phone screens or digital interfaces, and cobalt blue embodying female power. Huanca uses a range of materials, including silicone, plastic, clay, sand, textiles, hair, turmeric, and metal.