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Dark Matter: The Gooey Grandeur of Minerva Cuevas

Minerva Cuevas, a México City-based interdisciplinary installation artist and artist-in-residence at the San Diego Institute of Contemporary Art, has exhibited widely. Her work exposes the underbelly of corporate greed, the dark agenda of the petroleum industry and assorted other toxic capitalist ventures. She helps us imagine ways we can fight back against these giants, using familiar images, humor, and outrage.

Her current show at the San Diego Institute, entitled Dark Matter, comes well named. Her “dipped” canvases — peaceful landscapes — are dripping with a gooey, evil-looking petroleum product, a powerful contrast to the sweet country and ocean images.

The strangely beautiful antique oil canisters of Minerva Cuevas, all filled with plastic flowers, demonstrate the world we have to look forward to, a world where, if we don’t change course, everything becomes a petroleum product. We become so used to living with poison.

The murals Cuevas creates use familiar images, logos, and iconic advertising to “re-brand” the bad guys who are destroying our world. The stunning red-and-black wall in her current San Diego show’s mural depicts critters and plants trying to survive in a petroleum-based environment, with everything painted in red paint and black oil. It makes you cringe, but you can’t stop looking!

You can feel the damage being done, the heartless greed that’s stealing our world from us.


A kinder gentler corporate capitalism? I don’t think so, and I doubt Cuevas does either.

Activist Vicky Hamlin, a retired tradeswoman,
shop steward, and painter, shines the light 
in her art and this column 
on the lives of
working people and the world they live in.