The terms “lengua” or “tongue” refer to both my taste organ and spoken languages. Both of my cultures/tongues/homelands are conceived here as a candied skull, consumed by licks. It all becomes memory and ephemeral.
I wonder if language and even national identities are vanity.
Tasty Totem(Dear Homeland)/Sabroso Totem(Patria Querida)
I see my identity occupying a reflective space between two cultures. In Chinese alchemy, mercury is akin to the thought process because it takes the shape of what contains it yet reflects the world like a mirror. I taste myself on a mercury glass skull, savoring these reflections of identity.
Here is another watercolor inspired by my film “Patria Querida (Dear Homeland)”.
I was confined in an internment camp for political dissidents as a young child. There I met Toni, an orphan whose parents had been taken by the Castro government. Toni was probably 13 or 14 years old and was raising his younger brother who was around eight. I was seven or so. He was very patient with all of us younger kids. One of the things he did to entertain us is dance with a human skull propped on a broom stick. He would twirl and whirl, dip and spin that thing like he was Fred Astaire and the skull were Ginger Rogers.
Although viewed as an act of defiance by the camp soldiers, Toni braved their warnings and danced with a skull to entertain us younger kids. One day the camp guards beat him to within an inch of his life. Toni couldn’t move for months, and never danced with death again.
My memories of Toni and his bravery, my memories of Cuba, mi patria querida, melt and morph in the reflections on the mercury glass skull.
I sometimes dream of returning to Cuba, despite the persecution that led my family to flee our native soil and seek asylum in the USA. The mercury glass skull reflects the tension between a past that’s lost and a future that hasn’t materialized. It is a vanitas that asks what dies in that space?
Here is another watercolor inspired by my film “Patria Querida (Dear Homeland)”. The sense of voice and taste that define my identities as a Cuban-born refugee and a naturalized American since early youth. The mouth opens to speak spanglish– the patois in turn defines my thoughts on the reflective skull. My tongue reaches out and tastes the memory of frijoles and apple pie.
My heart is still full of wonder after watching PBS’ special “Of Ants and Men”.
Back when I was working on The Last Judgment series I became fascinated with E.O. Wilson’s work and read everything the public library had on hand. His research inspired me to work with contour lines in a series of 3-D drawings using hair and dried tears on military netting. Ants can follow the faintest trace of a pheromone line across vast distances. What if a simple line can lead the human mind through impossibly complex subjects or images?
My favorite quote from movie: “I don’t want to lecture people about saving the planet, I want to share with them the joy of the natural world…it’s where we belong.”
Absolutely gorgeous documentary, and you can watch it here: http://www.pbs.org/program/eo-wilson/
I’ve been on vacation, but as a new academic year begins, I’m back at in the studio both at the college and at home.
A new watercolor painting inspired by my film Patria Querida. It’s titled Legend of the Fall (Leyenda de la Caida). What was I thinking when I painted this…. Our grand-uncle, Carlos Prio Socarras, was president of Cuba until Batista ousted him in a military coup. Fidel Castro ousted him in turn. Revolution! One party falls, another swings into power. Differences in political processes between my native and new homelands aside, is power a form of vanity?
Remembering 9/11…all the death, all the destruction, the ensuing wars with no seeming end. I honor those that died, those that lost loved ones today by listening to Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sachs speak about The Dignity of Difference: How To Avoid The Clash of Civilizations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrQ75meskWI
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks archiving images from old portfolios and they’re now all ready!
Ok…not ALL!!! In the old days, we documented our work with slides. And dear heavens, I have mountains of slides to scan. Scanning and archiving is time consuming and I always put it off because there are always projects waiting for me in the studio. Nonetheless, I feel an enormous sense of accomplishment getting these portfolios archived and up on the site.
Pour yourself a bright cold tall glass of lemonade and come for a visit!
For me summer vacation is an opportunity for uninterrupted looking and deep reflection on the creative process and the existential questions with which my work wrestles. The Migration exhibit is over, but I continue to explore ideas about what constitutes a home, immigration, borders.
New in the studio: The Web from a series of watercolors exploring imagery in the film, Mi Patria Querida, It is 41.5″h x 68″w.