Mayorga concedes baking is not in her own wheelhouse, and she’s gleaned decorating techniques from baking shows like Cake Boss and Nailed It! and Instagram tutorials. “My Instagram Explore page is cake decorating, Hello Kitty, and nails,” she says, smiling, during a break from installing the Aldrich show.
Caitlin Monachino, the Aldrich’s curatorial and publications manager who organized the exhibition, found herself drawn to the accessibility of Mayorga’s work. “There are so many different points of entry—on a superficial level there’s the immediacy of the striking pink palette and texture,” Monachino says. “But the more time you spend with the works, the more you see the more sinister stories come out in very subtle details. It forces you to spend time with the work. She’s using this very approachable visual language to talk about harder subjects.”
The new Aldrich exhibition overlaps with the final month of Mayorga’s first solo museum presentation, “What a Time to Be,” at the Momentary, the contemporary art space of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, up through October 15. Both shows reflect a recent turn toward portraiture. “For the Momentary, that was the first time in a while that I had painted these representational portraits of my family members, whereas the work before was more abstract,” Mayorga says.
The three new larger-than-life portraits of her siblings at the Aldrich were inspired by 18th-century German artist Martin Engelbrecht’s engravings of workers decked out in the tools and wares of their trade—in particular, the confectioner, baker, and porcelain maker. Mayorga’s work often incorporates references to Rococo art, an interest that can be traced to tchotchkes in her family’s Midwestern home; the lavish celebrations and quinceañeras of her youth; and the ornate, gilded churches from annual summer trips to visit family in Mexico’s Jalisco and Zacatecas states. “The Catholic church was my first art museum,” she has said.
Today she seeks to create an immersive feeling around her works and, for an installation at the Momentary, even reimagined her teenage bedroom, complete with a laptop, television, the teen magazine J-14, and a gilded duvet all covered in pink frosting. (No surprise she names large-scale-installation artist Pepón Osorio among her inspirations, along with Nick Cave, Doris Salcedo, Amalia Mesa-Bains, and Mike Kelley.)