Teresa Burga is a Peruvian artist, whose 60-year career has dealt with divisions of labor, authorship, and the bodies and lives of women. She placed the female body at the center of her art in paintings and sculptures that questioned female stereotypes, patriarchal hierarchies, and chauvinism.
Born in Iquitos, Peru, Burga studied art in Lima. Attracted to Conceptual art, she was one of the founding members of Groupe Arte Nuevo, a Peruvian avant-garde movement from 1966 to 1968. In 1968, as a Fulbright scholar, she left Peru to study at the Art Institute of Chicago where she developed her mature Pop-Conceptual style and received her M.A. Fine Arts. She started to move away from painting to make experimental works in installations, research-based projects, and Happenings.
Burga’s early work consisted of bright, playful figurative paintings that parodied sexist portrayals of women. She also built a series of modular painted plywood sculptures from cubes, which depicted body parts of the female form. Her 1968 “Prismas” combined her interests in systems of labor and serial forms of art. She created schematic diagrams of the sculptures in 1:10 scale, including the imagery that would appear on their surfaces. Local fabricators produced the works. In 2013, she was still producing these plywood sculptures whose surface images depicted children, household objects, and abstract forms.
In 1971, Burga returned to Lima when Peru was under a military rule, whose collapse caused a twenty-year period of civil unrest, a failed economy, and a crumbling infrastructure. To document Peruvian life in this period, she made small pen-and-ink drawings, appropriated from Peruvian newspaper photographs. Her “Escombros Totales” (Total Debris) 2013 showed a decaying building facade done in a colorful, pointillist style.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Burga did scientific studies with psychotherapist Marie-France Cathelat on the lives of middle-class Peruvian women, which explored the dissonance between real Peruvian women and the stereotypes placed on them. Her “Perfil de la mujer peruana” (Profile of the Peruvian Woman) was a multimedia installation and publication.
Burga has participated in numerous solo exhibitions, some of which were in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, New York, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent. She had her first solo museum presentation in the United States at the Sculpture Center in New York.