Bruna Massadas explores the presentation of the feminine in multiple bodies of work, best exemplified by two ongoing series: Landscape Faces and Telephone.
In her series of acrylic portraits called Landscape Faces, Massadas focuses on the performance of female seduction. In this series, paint is used as a performer's makeup: lines are created with the same precision as one would apply eyeliner; colors are blended into a flawless gradation, much like eyeshadow. By using paint as makeup, Massadas helps her figures to perfect what is considered an essential quality in desirable women: the art of appearing and disappearing, accentuating and concealing their identities: in some areas of the paintings the figures are in the forefront, performing the role of seductresses; while in some other areas the figures blend with the background, becoming the landscape. Finally, by distorting the figure and using vibrant, unnatural colors, Massadas plays with the inevitable risks of seduction — awkwardness, grotesqueness, and unintended humor — all while heightening the social performance of seduction into a quasi-theatrical production.
Landscape Faces is inspired by a story Massadas witnessed: “In the midst of a family drama, once I secretly read an email from a Brazilian mother to her daughter. The mother was letting her daughter know that her father was cheating on her; she sent the private Facebook conversation between the father and the other woman as proof. The mother wrote that the only reaction she could have was to put on her “cara de paisagem" — landscape face — and pretend she didn't know anything. The daughter never replied.” Massadas goes on: “This Landscape Faces series reminds me of the face of these women: Photoshopped, apparently emotionless creatures, full of emotion, trapped in the world of painting and representation.”
In sharp contrast to her Landscape Faces series, wherein identity is almost fully eclipsed by form, Massadas's Telephone series embraces the unique personalities of her subjects. Presented as an installation featuring over 50 oil pastel portraits of fictional and real women on the phone, the characters seem to be participating in a massive group conversation. These women exist for themselves rather than for an unseen viewer; instead of bringing their hands to their cheeks for mere ornamentation, they press phones to their ears to listen — and to be heard. Awkwardness, grotesqueness, and humor also abound in these portraits, but so does endearment, relatability, and delight. If there is a joke, these women are in on it, and all of them are talking about it.
Inspired by the Telephone series, Massadas’s telephone still lifes explore the motif of the telephone on a more granular level: in these paintings and drawings, hands rather than faces create the narrative. Although all of the telephone still lifes are created from imagination, they are informed by historic predecessors: René Magritte’s surreal compositions and Otto Dix’s expressive use of hands, for example, serve as constant inspiration.