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Sacred Practice Women

Pietà

Torched Angels from Havana’s Graveyard

We had the opportunity to travel to Cuba in the winter of 2000. I was inspired to paint this series based on the feelings I received from meeting artists, exploring Havana’s International Art Biennial, discovering the coutryside and convening with a Santaria Priest. The layers of history, emotion and social relationships are complex. There is a great deal of pride and frustration both. The portrayed figures come from photographs I took through Havana’s main cemetery. For me, the series of white stone angels and portraits of the Virgin Mary were charged with a similar range of emotions I felt while meandering through the various urban neighborhoods and landscapes there. There is a great deal of loss held by community members yet they continue to hold strong to the qualities that define them as uniquely Cuban.

The works were created with a blowtorch. I burned layers of collaged materials then painted the portraits of the cold marble figures atop of the charred works. At this time in my creative evolution, I was exploring ways of conveying resilience in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. I remember a particular conversation with a group of musicians in Pinar del Rio about how my process integrated destruction into the textual layers of a work. I had shown them a series of works from Cambodia, where I had portrayed icons from Angkor Wat atop layers of wood I had torn up with a shotgun. They questioned the order in which the works were made, asking if I was mutilating these figures in an aggressive way. I told them than no, indeed I was not. The figures grew as representations of an enlightened state out of the fields that were pieced together from the violent process of literally tearing it up with a shotgun. The conversation made me acutely aware of how process contributed to the meaning inherit in this kind of work.

Cuban Angel painting by Lee Lee
Cuban Angel painting by Lee Lee
Cuban Angel painting by Lee Lee
Cuban Angel painting by Lee Lee
Cuban Angel painting by Lee Lee
Cuban Angel painting by Lee Lee
Cuban Angel painting by Lee Lee
Cuban Angel painting by Lee Lee
Cuban Angel painting by Lee Lee
Cuban Angel painting by Lee Lee