DePaul Art Museum > Exhibitions > Selva Aparicio: In Memory Of

Selva Aparicio: In Memory Of

​​​​​​​​March 14–August 4, 2024 ​

​“I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing before, and we all know how much expression they have! I used to lie awake as a child and get more entertainment and terror out of blank walls and plain furniture than most children could find in a toy-store.

—Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper (1892)

Domestic violence is neither an unfortunate fate for the unlucky few nor the result of bad choices and cruel environments. It is rather a social ill, an epidemic that crosses geographical, cultural, and linguistic barriers. And yet domestic violence is private, existing within someone’s home in isolation and extreme vulnerability. 

For her first solo museum exhibition, In Memory Of, Chicago-based artist Selva Aparicio (b. 1987) transforms each of DePaul Art Museum’s first-floor gallery spaces into a domestic setting by way of a careful excavation of the artist’s life and memories. The dilemmas arising from the meanings of “public” and “private” in the context of domestic violence operate at both a practical and conceptual level. The exhibition aims to project—from the point of view of children and women—domestic life in a seemingly common space, but once observed in closer proximity, different pieces and messages are revealed. 

Responding to the architecture of the museum, Aparicio creates new site-specific works as well as remakes previous projects in a new context. Aparicio delves into ideas of memory, death, intimacy, and mourning. Working with nature’s ephemera, including plants, wasp nests, lettuce leaves, and taxidermied animals, among other materials, her practice is an extended death ritual which foregrounds a reverence for the deceased and discarded. 

“I am interested in working in that space of death and decomposition,” Aparicio declares. “Extend that moment, and work with those materials that contain memories, to reflect on them and what they contain. The bottom line is to find that moment between what they want and what I want. It is a kind of collaboration because they are living materials.” Aparicio gives materiality to processes of mourning. Partly inspired by her own story as well as those of others, Aparicio’s works move beyond tragedy and allow us to be open to the experience of mourning, exposing us to an unusual and surprising appreciation of the beauty of the ephemeral. 

“Refusal to mourn is refusal to live,” writes psychoanalytic psychotherapist Adam Phillips. “Mourning is the necessary suffering that makes more life possible” (1).  While Aparicio occasionally addresses the personal, she usually treats themes symbolically, representing the fragility of life through shifts and ruptures in the visual forms of her work. 

Selva Aparicio: In Memory Of  is curated by Ionit Behar, Ph.D., Curator, and organized by DePaul Art Museum.

Support is provided by the Illinois Arts Council, Chapman and Cutler, Terra Foundation for American Art, Mesirow Financial, Steve and Leslie Jacobson, Nada and Michael Gray, Rena and Daniel Sternberg, DePaul Women’s Center, and Robin Gallardi. In-kind support is provided by Navillus Woodworks, Easiklip, Bike a Bee, Chicago Park District, Engage Projects, and Benedicta Badia.

Community Partners include Instituto Cervantes, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, DePaul University Library, Alfred University School of Art, Poetry Foundation, EXPO Chicago, DePaul School of Music, The Theatre School, and Center for Latino Research.  Special thanks to: Chiara Conner, Sofia Gut, Zoë Hamilton, Sandy Ruiz, Ann Russo, Bernardo Soares, David Nelson, Amis Crawford, Andy Cain, Shawn Lucas, Tim McKee, Phoebe Quinn, Felipe Carmona, Rebecca Arday, Amanda Gentry, Eugene Maltez, Anna Savvidou, Will Wheeler, Erin Taylor, Davey Cunningham, Matthew Kiegerl, Carl Kiegerl, and Kierstin Siegl.

Adam Phillips, Darwin’s Worms: On Life Stories and Death Stories (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2001), 27. ​

Illinois Arts Council


 ​Image Credits:

1. Remains, 2013/2024. Lettuce, particle board, and paper. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Selva Aparicio.

2. Childhood Memories, 2017. Hand-carved rug into utility oak wood floor. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Selva Aparicio.​