Experience the Fragility and Beauty of Humanity with María Berrío’s ‘The Children’s Crusade’

By Jenna Maunsell

by ELYSIAN Magazine

The start of spring brings a new season of art exhibitions with it. One exhibit that has gained national attention is María Berrío’s “The Children Crusade.” Berrio’s work will be shown through early August. “The Children’s Crusade” is currently housed in Boston at the Institute of Contemporary Art, a renowned museum founded in 1936.

Berrío is a New York-based artist who was originally born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. She completed her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts at the Parsons School of Design and her Master’s of Fine Arts at the New York School of Visual Arts. She is primarily known for her large-scale collage works. 

These large-scale paintings are the result of a tedious and special process, which starts with a sketch. With this sketch in mind, she then begins to layer hundreds of sheets of delicate paper. Berrío collages torn pieces of Japanese paper with watercolor, acrylic, and pencil to complete her final striking scenes. Her choice of Japanese paper is a unique medium that expresses both the fragility and beauty of humanity and the human experience. 

“The Children’s Crusade” draws on the Children’s Crusade of 1212 and the mass movement of people across borders for inspiration. The story of the Children’s Crusade, which is subject to debate, states that thousands of children traveled through Italy and France to convert Muslims to Christianity. This story has served as inspiration for many works of art and literature. 

Berrío ties the Children’s Crusade of 1212 into the realities that migrants and unaccompanied minors face today. The experiences of child migrants are often represented through the depiction of birds and human-animal figures in her work. The paintings with these symbols work to encourage the audience to think about the issues of flight, freedom, control, and protection. Her detailed landscapes and nature scenes tie in loss, displacement, and the unknown… all-too-familiar feelings in the lives of migrants. 

Berrío works to capture the unique intersection of magic and reality through her fictional stories in the memorable paintings. Her work exposes the audience to a new perspective of the migrant experience as they walk through the exhibition. She notes that the main characters of this exhibit are the children. The thin layers of colorful paper coupled with the delicate hues of the watercolor allow the viewers to step into the minds of these children. Their minds are filled and mixed with their own imaginations and experiences. 

As the new season rolls in, consider stepping into their world with María Berrío’s “The Children’s Crusade.”

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