Being and Nothingness: Agustina Woodgate at Art Basel Miami Beach 2012
I first met Agustina Woodgate in the unlikely location of a hi-rise condo in Aventura. Her studio was there for some reason, and as we walked down the long corridor she spoke of her volunteer work at an animal shelter. We were hooking up because she was recommended to me as a young, energetic newcomer, who desired to work in a children’s art program. As we fell into an easy conversation, she described the workshop she wanted to create for the kids. “Felting,” she said. “Huh?” I said. As we entered her studio, I was overwhelmed by her then-current work, which involved giving out free haircuts on the street, and then weaving the human hair into sculptures, including a medieval castle that sat in a corner. There were also stuffed animal heads pinned on the wall; their skins had been sewn by her into a stuffed-animal-fur rug laying on the floor, soft and brightly colored, celebrating the childlike love of teddy bears, the complete antithesis of a real animal-fur rug, which involves the death of an animal. Her work was soft, sensitive, and life-affirming, as well as playful and thought-provoking. The kids loved her, of course, and we all learned exactly what ‘felting’ was.
Three years later, her work has grown in both substance, nuance, and meaning, yet it involves less space, less color, and eschews obvious artisanal technique. It is about space, emptiness, and the beings who appear to be surrounded by nothingness, yet are swathed within it. According to Agustina, although she has erased books, and even erased the world, all space, even though it appears to be empty, like the vast cosmos in which we live, are filled. Crammed, in fact, with what we can only surmise is our own humanity, our own desires, the lasting glory of the works we do, and the love we pass on to the rest of our kind.
Agustina has risen in the esteem of the art world, to be sure, and her work has matured as she has more deeply explored humanity’s being-ness, and nothingness, or what Sartre referred to as ens causa sui, mankind’s vision of completeness, or God, a being who owes its existence to no other being. The spirituality of Agustina’s work is no longer in doubt, and the object of her desire makes us shake and tumble, secure in mankind’s place in the empty, yet somehow crowded with souls, universe.