Tilsa Tsuchiya Castillo was a contemporary Peruvian artist whose work drew on Indian motifs and legends, while synthesizing a myriad of styles. In 1959 she graduated from the Escuela Nacional Superior Autónoma de Bellas Artes in Lima, once under the directorship of the indigenismo painter José Sabogal, but during her attendance under the influence of the abstract expressionist Fernando de Szyszlo. In 1960 she left Lima for Paris, where she studied at the Sorbonne and took classes at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. At this time the final phase of the Surrealist movement under André Breton was taking Paris by storm with their controversial exhibition EROS, on view at Galerie Daniel Cordier from December 15, 1959 through February 29, 1960. This exhibition emphasized the transgressive power of eroticism, primarily through the depiction of the female body but also through theatrical installations that emphasized myth. It is interesting to note that when Tsuchiya returned to Lima four years later, her paintings portrayed personal interpretations of Peruvian myths in a surrealist style, with strange anthropomorphic figures that incorporated the female nude.
Perched atop trees, high cliffs, and ancient ruins, or flying through the air like in Mujer volando, Tsuchiya's magical women embody the freedom and force of natural elements. Armless with solid white bodies, her supernatural creatures have the volumetric density of the sacred stones endowed with power of Quechua legends, and even of the monumental structures of their Inca ancestors, such as those of Machu Picchu. Her pale white skin almost blending into the cool misty air surrounding her, the feminine spirit in Mujer volando is not vaporous and ethereal but rather sensually curvaceous. Playfully mixing the mythic and the real, this spirit of the wind wears a ring of clouds like a fashionable fur collar and sports a chic black bob as she casts a severe side-long glance at what follows behind her. Ultimately, Tsuchiya's women are timeless and archetypal manifestations of feminine power painted at a time when the feminist movement was manifesting globally. This artist died tragically early leaving behind a hauntingly beautiful and inspiring body of work of which Mujer volando is a spectacular example.
Susan L. Aberth, Associate Professor of Art History, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York