It is surprising, given her power to conjure individuals from imaginative conjunctions of unlikely materials, that Venezuelan-American sculptor Marisol is not better known as a portraitist. And yet in thinking about Marisol's work as a whole, it is clear that the portraits and self-portraits she creates are only one way of expressing herself as an artist. Through sculpture, assemblages and drawings she has produced since the late 1950s, Marisol has forged her way into a movement part Pop, part Abstract Expressionist and part Minimalist. As a young artist living in New York in the 1950s, she was deeply influenced by Pre-Columbian art but also very much aware of what was happening around her and began to sculpt at the same time that Robert Rauschenberg, after encountering John Cage at Black Mountain Collage, began his combine paintings consisting of paint plus appropriated images and objects. He states: "Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made. (I try to act in that gap between the two)" (R. Rauschenburg as quoted in N. Grove, "A Point of View: The Sculptures of Marisol," Magical Mixtures: Marisol Portrait Sculpture, exh. cat., Washington, D.C., 1991, p. 11). This revolutionary line of thought summarized the changing attitude of younger artists that art was who you were, where you were and what you could find. His work was extremely important to Marisol, who saw his first one-man exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1951.
Mi Mamá y Yo, conceived in 1968, is the artist's first truly autobiographical sculpture, though Marisol has used parts of herself in most of her sculptures from 1961 through 1975. In the present work, the young child Marisol stands on a bench, taller than her mother, Josefina Hernandez Escabar, covering her with an umbrella. While her mother beams with happiness, her daughter appears stern, angry and defiant. Like all of Marisol's sculpture, this image was created from memory, referenced from an old family photograph (Marisol's mother died when she was only eleven) and combines Marisol's mid-1960s abstraction with realistic details. The present sculpture is deeply personal for the artist and remained in her own collection for decades and was only recently recast in an edition of three--two works of which are held in museum collections.