This week I’ll complete the story of my Cuban relatives’ immigration to the United States. I’ll also connect the dots between my temporary art studio, where I completed my first paintings in 1969, to the direction my art is taking me today.
Once my relatives submitted their immigration papers to the Cuban government, their lives changed dramatically – mostly for the worse. From that point forward, the government took control of their lives for five years by taking possession of their homes (although they allowed them to still live in them) and forcing them to leave their jobs to work in menial positions in sugar or coffee plantations, or on farms. My cousin Isabel, who was a college graduate and had a wonderful job as an engineer at an American oil refinery, was forced to leave her position. She and her sisters were bused daily to a coffee plantation where they had to prepare tobacco leaves for cigars. She told me that she and her sisters were some of the lucky ones. Many other people had more arduous jobs. After going through these difficulties for five years, the government finally allowed them to immigrate to our country. So, when I think about immigrants coming to this country today, I think of my own family. I think of the many hardships these families, like my own, might have gone through to leave their homeland. I realize that most people do not want to leave their homes or birthplaces, and that it’s often for very difficult and dangerous reasons they do – such as what we’re witnessing today in the Ukraine.
After emigrating to the US from Cuba, my mother became a seamstress. As a child, I fell in love with the beautiful patterns and images on the fabrics that she would bring home just to create exquisite outfits for me. So around 15 years ago, as a cultural and loving connection to my mother, I began collecting fabrics from upholsterers, fabric shops, and discarded pieces of clothing. Then, adding the elements of my heritage and of collage to my work, I carefully curate different pieces of fabrics, glue them onto my paintings, incorporating them into the compositions.
Next time I will continue telling the story of my art process today and how with time it has turned into so much more than just collage.
TIP OF THE WEEK:
Meaningful art tells a story relevant to the moments in which it’s being created.
To find inspiration for your art and to make meaningful art, I recommend exploring your world, your relationships with your family and friends, your beliefs, and what motivates you.
Here are but a few of the artists that have influenced me: Kehinde Wiley, Wangeshi Mutu, Ai Weiwei, Nick Cave, Faith Ringgold, and Judy Chicago.