Joana Vasconcelos's epicly scaled stiletto heel shoe forms a playful, yet powerful metaphor for the expectations and inclinations of contemporary womanhood. Created in 2008, Carmen Miranda is one of a series of shoe sculptures by the Portuguese artist that reflect on private and public spheres and the social roles traditionally assigned to women by being meticulously constructed out of hundreds of high-shine stainless steel pots and lids and named after a significant heroine of popular culture. The titles that Vasconcelos has chosen play a significant part in contributing to the multiplicity of meaning that her works engender and the names that have been attributed to these sculptures--including Dorothy, Cinderella, Priscilla and Marilyn-refer to those emblems of glamour, beauty and romance who form persistent role models for feminine identity, as of course does Carmen Miranda. This nomenclature, applied to the high-heeled shoe, is intended to speak of the power conferred by the art of seduction, whilst the sum of its parts tells a more modest tale.
Much like Vasconcelos' celebrated sculpture, A Noiva (The Bride, 2001), a larger-than-life chandelier constructed of thousands of tampons, Carmen Miranda provokes the viewer to consider both the overall structure and platform shoes in a promotional portrait for director Lewis Seilers film, If Im Lucky, 1946 Photo by APA/Getty Images the sculpture and its component pieces. 'I try to work with items that might be around the house,' she has explained, 'to conceptualise them, give them a new life and a new form, and then make them become a part of a larger object' (J. Vasconcelos, quoted in A. Pérez Rubio, From Micro to Macro and Vice Versa on http://joanavasconcelos.com/english/PerezRubio.pdf ). By recontextualising the humble cooking pot in this way, Vasconcelos has created something monumental and spectacular out of the banal, whilst also passing an ironic comment on the fact that women are still widely expected to be both publically beautiful and domestically predisposed. Far from being demure, Carmen Miranda, a little like the famously gregarious Portuguese-born Brazilian samba singer herself, is both monstrous and magnificent, taking up the baton of feminism in a grand statement that proves its aims are still relevant, particularly in an age of conspicuous consumerism fuelled by the fetishization of fashion. Yet, Vasconcelos does not describe herself as a feminist, but rather as a proponent for equal human rights who works to transform the fear of being trapped by conventional notions of femininity and cultural identity into provocative sculptures that possess a rare and surprising beauty.