Elsa María Meléndez’s “Leche” at the Orlando Museum of Art

In Fall 2022, the National Portrait Gallery announced Elsa María Meléndez as winner of the 2022 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition’s People’s Choice Award.

“The Outwin 2022: American Portraiture Today” presents 42 works (selected from over 2,700 entries and featuring the 7 winners) “that foreground the vibrancy and relevance of portraiture today.” In addition to paintings, photographs, drawings, and sculptures, “The Outwin” includes video, performance art, and textiles, highlighting the limitless possibilities of contemporary portraiture. The exhibition is now on view at the Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, Florida, until October 8, 2023. It will then travel to Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, November 3, 2023–January 21, 2024; and Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Massachusetts, February 17, 2024–May 5, 2024.

Here is more information on Elsa María Meléndez’s work.

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has announced Elsa María Meléndez of Puerto Rico as winner of the People’s Choice Award for the museum’s 2022 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. Held every three years, the Portrait Gallery’s national competition results in an exhibition highlighting the latest in contemporary portraiture from across the United States and its territories. As part of the competition, the Portrait Gallery invites viewers to vote for their favorite finalist included in the competition’s resulting exhibition. Viewers—both in-person and remote— were able to cast votes online for their favorite of 42 portraits included in “The Outwin 2022: American Portraiture Today.” Meléndez’s winning textile work “Milk” (2020) remains on view in Washington, D.C., through Feb. 26, 2023, before the exhibition tours to select cities across the U.S. 

Created six months into the COVID-19 lockdown, “Milk” depicts Meléndez charging forward in a large-scale portrait using her own likeness combining silk, drawing and various needlework techniques. The figure carries a limp bull with milk dripping from her breasts in a comment on gender violence which escalated in Puerto Rico during the pandemic. Feminist organizations took to the streets demanding the government declare a state of emergency in response to an increase in domestic abuse against women. The milk reaffirms the strength of women as a life force while the bull, tamed momentarily with breast milk, might be read as a critical comment on how women can also “nurse the beast of patriarchy,” said Meléndez.  

“Our congratulations go out to Elsa María Meléndez whose portrait encapsulates the artist’s fight on gender equality,” said Taína Caragol, director of the 2022 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition and curator at the National Portrait Gallery. “It is also notable that the voters have recognized an artwork that communicates the universality of the women’s struggle for equity and respect both in Puerto Rico and globally. This is the second consecutive time that a Puerto Rican artist wins the People’s Choice Award. We are delighted for them and for all Latinx artists.” [. . .]

For more information, see https://omart.org/exhibitions/the_outwin_american_portraiture_today/ and https://www.si.edu/newsdesk/releases/national-portrait-gallery-announces-elsa-maria-melendez-winner-2022-outwin

Also see https://www.elnuevodia.com/corresponsalias/washington-dc/notas/bajo-exhibicion-en-washington-dc-una-obra-premiada-de-la-artista-puertorriquena-elsa-maria-melendez

[Shown above: “Leche” / “Milk” by Elsa María Meléndez. Canvas with silkscreen, embroidery, ink, and other textiles. 2020Collection of the artist. Copyright Elsa María Meléndez.]

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