Women’s History Month: Zilia Sánchez and “La Noche Lunar”

To commemorate Women’s History Month, The Phillips Collection will be celebrating female and female identifying artists during the entire month of March. Zilia Sánchez: Soy Isla (I Am an Island)—the Cuban artist’s first museum retrospective—is on view at The Phillips Collection February 16-May 19, 2019.


Visitors with Zilia Sánchez's Lunar works in the Goh Annex Stairwell

Zilia Sánchez, Lunar (Moon), 1985. Acrylic on stretched canvas, 71 ½ × 73 ½ × 14 in. Collection of Ignacio J. López Beguiristain and Laura M. Guerra, San Juan; Lunar (Moon), c. 1980. Acrylic on stretched canvas with custom wooden base, 23 × 21 ¾ × 5 in. Collection of Mima and César Reyes, San Juan. Photo: Rhiannon Newman

The moon (or lunar) is a common theme in the work of Zilia Sánchez. Her Lunar paintings and sculptures bring an elusive, symbolic content to her work. As she recalls her memories of growing up in Havana, she explains, “I cried a lot when I was little and the only way for my mother to console me was to take me outside to see the moonlight.” This soft and calming light when day turns into night continues to give Sánchez a sense of comfort and well-being throughout the years.

The moon universally marks the passing of time and is often associated with feminine principles. With its soft glow, the full moon is a symbol of subtlety, reflection, and quietude. In Spanish, the word lunar has a double meaning, referring to either a mole/beauty mark or to the moon, thereby underlining the synergy of the body and nature, the personal and the cosmic, that is present in many of Sánchez’s works. “Lunares have sensuality and sexuality,” says Sánchez. “They are marks of beauty.” While some of the Lunar pieces emphasize the purity of circular forms in white, blue, and gray, others bear tattoo drawings that trace cryptic trajectories. Reflecting on her Lunar works, Sánchez frequently mentions the Caribbean moonlight—la noche lunar—that brings her tranquility.

Zilia Sánchez, Lunar con tatuaje (Moon with Tattoo), c. 1968/96, Acrylic on stretched canvas, 71 × 72 × 12 in., Collection of the artist, Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York. Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Moonlit Mood

Lee Boroson. Sketch for Lunar Bower, 2011.

In honor of tonight’s full moon, a preview of the next Intersections project, opening May 26. Lee Boroson’s Lunar Bower responds to moonscapes in the permanent collection. It is made of silk and felt and will suspend (illuminated) from the ceiling of the cafe.

Albert Pinkham Ryder. Moonlit Cove, early to mid- 1880s. Oil on canvas; 14 1/8 x 17 1/8 in. The Phillips Collection

Arthur G. Dove. Me and the Moon, 1937. Wax emulsion on canvas; 18 x 26 in. The Phillips Collection

William Scharf. Grey Moon, 1991. Acrylic on board; 11 3/4 x 14 7/8 in. The Phillips Collection