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To create A Flor de Piel, Doris Salcedo sutured together hundreds of rose petals into a delicate shroud that undulates softly on the floor. Suspended in a state of transformation, the petals linger between life and death and are so vulnerable that they tear if touched. For Salcedo, fragility becomes the essence of the work as she sought to create an “image that is immaterial.” The title is a Spanish idiomatic expression used to describe an overt display of emotions. While that meaning is lost when literally translated, the phrase a flor de piel links flowers and skin, suggesting a sensation so overwhelming that it is expressed physically through a coloring of the body’s surface.
Salcedo’s installations and sculptures often employ minimal forms that subtly evoke the fragility of human life. Viewed in light of the brutal civil war in Salcedo’s native Colombia, this aesthetic sensibility takes on specific political resonances. Salcedo conceived the work A Flor de Piel while she was researching the events surrounding a female nurse who was tortured to death in Colombia and whose dismembered body has never been found. The artist has described the work as a floral offering to this victim of torture, as well as all of those who have been affected by violence. “Suturing the petals is very important because it was a way to bring together all these parts,” Salcedo has said. “Violence destroys everything. Torture destroys bodies. The idea is to bring them together and unite them and recover the force that they had.”¹
1. Doris Salcedo and Tim Marlow, “Doris Salcedo on A Flor De Piel and Plegaria Muda,” White Cube, May 25, 2012, accessed June 6, 2013.