Zilia Sánchez, Amazonas (Amazons), from the series Topologías eróticas (Erotic Topologies), 1978. Acrylic on stretched canvas, 43 × 70 × 11 in., Princeton University Art Museum, NJ, Museum purchase, Fowler McCormick, Class of 1921, Fund, 2014-53.
Zilia Sánchez: Soy Isla (I Am an Island) is the first museum retrospective of Cuban artist Zilia Sánchez (b. 1926, Havana). This long-overdue exhibition examines the artist’s prolific yet largely unknown career that spans almost 70 years, featuring more than 60 works including paintings, works on paper, shaped canvases, and sculptural pieces, alongside illustrations, design sketches, and ephemera. The exhibition traces Sánchez’s artistic journey from her early days in Cuba to her extended visits to Europe and residence in New York, and finally her move to Puerto Rico, where she now lives and works. Many of Sánchez’s works reference protagonists from ancient mythology (such as Trojans, Amazonians, and Antigone—all warriors and female heroines). Others have reoccurring motifs of lunar shapes, erotic topologies, and tattoo drawings that map physical and psychological spaces and add another dimension to her curvilinear geometry, rich with metaphorical meaning. The exhibition title, I Am an Island, serves as a personal metaphor for Sanchez's experience as an islander—connected to and disconnected from both the mainland and mainstream art currents.