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.