Essays  Mirna Ferrer  

Mirna Ferrer

"The Eye of Melancholy"

Norma Bessouet offers us a world of profound solitude and mystery. A rational approach to her work quickly leads us down a dead end. These works come from a personal introspection, a poetic history maked by fate, were thought is suspended and emotions take over, From the silence comes the profound and obscure,

The Windows

"Ventanas" ("Windows"), with which the exposition begins, sparks the viewer imagination. Seeing through a void created in a wall, the hole is penetration and consciousness, and wether from within or without, signifies the possibility, the necessity of communication by means of the image.

When walking down a street, how often do we look through a window, seeing the forms, textures, colors, sensing the smells and warmth of this world suspended for an instant. Norma Bessouet captures and preserves the moments. "Que es fr’o, es verde que tambien se mueve"-- " What is cold, is green which also moves".

Looking through a window can bring curiosity, laughter surprise , melancholy, Norma Bessouet expresses these different emotions in mysterious images, images charged with a fine humor. But the humor is deadly serious, there is no attempt to shield from view the terrible aspects of human existence. "That there be no looking without seeing"  (...) " ... and above all to look with innocence".

If looking through a window opens the possibility of comunication by means of the image, it also imposes certain limits;  looking through a mirror expands this possibility, bringing with it a new significance: the reflection of our own image.

The Mirror

"Mirrors and copulation are abominable because they multiply the number of men" says Jorge Luis Borges in Tlon, Uqber Orbis Tertius;  mirrors  seem to waylay us like an eye that sees all, making us feel illusory in the world with their easy reflection. Norma Bessouet scrutinizes the mirror and returns her image transformed, distorted/ tranfigured.

That transformation of the image, which has its most finished expresion in the " Mirror of Melancholy", creates a dissonance echoing through the entire exposition.

In " El Deseo de la Palabra"  ( The desire for the Word) Alejandra Pizarnik, Argentinian poetess whose work has a strong bond with Norma's work,  says: " I believe that melancholy is, in the end, a musical problem: a dissonance, a disordered rythym. While outside everything happens with a waterfall's whirling rythym, within there is the draining slowness of water falling, drop by drop. This exterior reality contemplated from within turns out to be absurd and unreal and constitutes  " the farce which we all must represent ".

In " El Ojo de la Melancolia" this melancholy time becomes a state of consciousness, an interior look.


In Antiquity, melancholy was considered one of the four basic humors, represented by black bile. For a long time it was considered a disease, a form of madness, or perhaps a lack of faith. Only during the Renaissance did it begin to be considered a source of creativity, of genious, and of sensitivity.  Monuments from the power of melancholy include masterpieces such as the famous engraving by Durero and Michelangelo's sculpture on the tomb of Lorenzo de Medicis.

In modern times, Baudelaire, Poe, and other poets and artists including the surrealists, grant melancholy a place of awe and respect.

The melancholy world of Norma Bessouet appears in her work like a psychic landscape of paleness and mourning in which the human being is an eye watching the falling rain. As with Gabriel Garcia Marquez's melancholic character, Remedios la Bella , melancholy is at once penetrating, debilitating and enriching. Rain brings great melancholy yeat water is the source of life and hope.

The Dolls

In the "dolls" which Norma makes with objects she has found, the expressive duality of melancholy appears in a more dramatic form. Transformation of the image is the game which: Delfina, Vigilia, and Juan Raro , play.  Juan Raro takes off his head when he is sad and puts it on when he is happy; Vigilia can close her eyes, Delfina's lavender hair and the unruly hair of Shadow are the possibilities of enrichment and transformation of images.

The smallest objects in this series of disquieting presences connote the temporality reflected by the very elements out of which they are made ( parts of a clock)-- a brief reminder of the melancholic perception of time.

Let us remember that in its classical forms melancholy is controlled by Saturn, the god of time who inexorably devours everything. The disturbing in Norma's Bessouet's presences has its source in this relationship which, even if we are not conscious of it touches us. There is something abominable about clocks, but as opposed to mirrors which multiply images, clocks, as guardians of time , impose limits and structure on life.

In the exploration of melancholy Norma Bessouet manages to approach a more profound state of the spirit. The Triptych, through the different phases of the day: dawn , day, and night, takes us to that forbidden garden to which woman is heir. In a climate of total liberty the characters enter into a game that is at the same time erotic and virginal. By night this liberty of the feminine appears as a prison of solitude.

The garden, as an image of natural order, opposes the idea that " the garden of delights exits only outside of gardens"; a radical exploration leads us to a land of ambiguities that resist order because of a profound and indomitable nature.....

The savage expression of her characters brings us to the moment in which the melancholic, with its droning slow rhythm, suddenly burst out from the enslaving order, animated by an energy which brings it to delirium. For Norma Bessouet there is a wealth in the world of melancholy, a musical dissonance that brings us from the slowness of an insignificant death to the primordial ecstasy in the human being.

Mirna Ferrer