Installation view, María Berrío: The Children’s Crusade, ICA/Boston, 2023. Photo by Mel Taing.
New York–based artist María Berrío (born 1982 in Bogotá, Colombia) crafts her large-scale paintings through a unique, meticulous process of collaging torn pieces of Japanese paper with watercolor to create riveting, magical scenes. Spurred by contemporary social and political realities, the artist lists poetry, folklore, and the realms of magic as her sources of inspiration to imagine alternative views of present-day realities, especially those faced by migrants, women, and children.
This exhibition will present a selection of new and existing works from Berrío’s series The Children’s Crusade. This series blends the history of the Children’s Crusade of 1212 with the contemporary mass movement of peoples across borders. While the actual events of the Children’s Crusade, in which thousands of children, legends say, trekked through Italy and France to convert Muslims to Christianity, continue to be a subject of debate among historians, legends of miracles and tragedies have inspired an abundance of stories, songs, and artwork over centuries. Berrío draws inspiration from these diverse sources to reflect on the contemporary realities facing migrants and unaccompanied minors today. Some of her works reimagine the child migrant through such figures as birds and human-animal hybrids and meditate on issues of flight, freedom, control, and protection. Other works evoke displacement, loss, and the unknown through detailed landscapes and nature scenes. Energized by the contact point between reality and magic, the artist frames her exhibitions as fictional stories, with each painting serving as a scene from an unfolding and otherworldly tale and accompanied by a narrative text. Her new paintings continue her enduring interest in relations between humans and nature, depicting her child protagonists in commune, conflict, or uncertain relation with nature and animals.