Marcel Toledo’s aim is to transform their suffering into something beautiful
This article contains material that some readers may find upsetting
Recently, we’ve seen a number of artists using their talents to turn stretch marks and surgical scars into art.
Now, Argentine sculptor Marcelo Toledo is winning praise for transforming the scars of domestic violence survivors into art.
The exhibition, which is called Detrás de las Paredes (roughly ‘Behind Closed Doors’), is a collection of 14 sculptures that represent the physical and mental traumas endured by victims of gender-based violence.
The works, cast out of different types of metals including brass and copper, are designed to recreate the texture and appearance of survivors’ scars.
The show’s title hints at the tendency among victims of domestic violence to hide their scars and act like everything is fine, even when they are suffering terrible abuse at home.
“Every day, I wake up with the faces of these women in my mind,” Marcelo, 43, tells BBC Three. “My mission as an artist is to channel their suffering into art.”
Marcelo decided to begin the project after seeing the growth of Ni Una Menos (Not One [Woman] Less), an Argentine feminist movement that campaigns against gender-based violence. NUM was formed in 2015 following the murder of Chiara Paez, a pregnant 14-year-old who was killed by her 16-year-old boyfriend.
“This collective of women went onto the streets to say enough, to put a stop to violence and abuse,” says Marcelo. “This inspired me and I began to investigate what was happening around the world.”
Working with several photographers, Marcelo based some of his pieces on existing photos and collaborated with others to produce haunting new images of survivors and their scars.
One of the show’s most powerful pieces tells the story of Karina Abregú, whose ex-husband poured petrol on her and set her alight.
Karina survived by throwing herself into a pool of water. She suffered burns to 50% of her body, spent six months in hospital and underwent 30 operations.
She then campaigned for over two years to see justice done. Eventually, her husband was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2016.
Another survivor who features in the show is Soledad, a Peruvian trans woman and sex worker based in Buenos Aires. Soledad came to Argentina hoping to find acceptance, but instead she was beaten into a coma by her clients. Soledad suffered damage to her face and lost the vision in one eye.
To make the sculptures, Marcelo would first sketch a copy of each scar on paper. Then a metal was chosen that would recreate the texture and appearance of the marks left on that survivor’s skin.
“It was heavy work being surrounded by the experiences of these women and seeing their physical scars every day,” says Marcelo.
Hats off to Marcelo – an artist who is changing the world, one sculpture at a time.