Lidia Lisbôa

Clay, crochet, textiles and performance

Works created by the Brazilian artist allude to themes such as love, violence and the female body.

Cocoons as protection

“There was a time I went through a difficult situation: it was when I began to create my crochet work. I spent three months just crocheting, crocheting, crocheting. Before I knew it, I had a wonderful collection. I learned how to knit and crochet by watching my aunts back in Paraná,” the artist recalls. The Cocoons are sacks carefully crafted in crochet, fabric and lace that provide shelter to life in formation, as well as protecting the female body from violence.

The artist also created crocheted Teats of various sizes, in sets of six or eight. There are also big, single breasts whose larger-than-life auras have garnered them walls all to themselves in galleries and collectors’ houses. “They’re the Teats of women from all over the world. The yarn coming out of them alludes to the primordial, endless breasts that feed the entire world, but which are not always fed in return,” says the artist.

Feelings and senses transformed by sewing

In her curatorial text for Lidia Lisbôa’s solo exhibition, which took place at the Rabieh Gallery in 2015, Fabiana Lopes says that some of Lidia Lisbôa’s works reference Lygia Clark. Like Clark, Lisbôa also began her career with painting, before gradually switching over to the production of sensory objects. Unlike Lygia Clark, however, for whom the exploration of sensorial relationships took on an ever increasing role, to the extent that the artist considers her work to be more psychoanalysis than art, Lidia Lisbôa seems to walk the opposite path. As we can see in the series entitled Cicatrizes (Scars), she seeks a way to embody her state of mind in the form: “The Scars are our sorrows, our pains. It’s all sewn in here. Sometimes I spend a month working only on this series, with women’s stockings and fabrics,” she says.

Termite Mounds as producers of life and art

The Cupinzeiros (Termite Mounds) series is comprised of coils and ridges in various shapes and sizes, patiently molded by Lidia Lisbôa and marked with her fingernails. “From the dirt floor house in Paraná, I could see an avocado tree standing straight and several termite mounds. My mother told me to stay away from them because they were dangerous. I didn’t touch them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Years later, I wound up creating my own termite mounds,” says the artist.

Seemingly dried out and dead on the outside, termite mounds are living mountains, shaped by termites with saliva, earth, plants and droppings to store food and eggs – they are, therefore, shelters for generating new life. Lidia Lisbôa’s termite mounds are made of clay, from the artist’s hands and memories. Like termites, she devours organic matter – racism, abortion, rape, and other psychological materials that she returns to the world as art objects.


Adriana de Oliveira Silva is an anthropologist and journalist. In 2018, she defended her doctoral thesis entitled “Galeria & Senzala (Gallery and Slave Quarters): the (im)pertinence of the black presence in the arts in Brazil”, at the University of São Paulo’s Department of Anthropology.

Translated from Portuguese by Zoë Perry.