In the early 1960s, my parents and many relatives migrated to the United States from Cuba as political exiles; this occurrence influenced the course of my artwork. From 1990-2000, I created mixed-media sculptures and multi-media installations for the Immigration Series, exploring issues of cultural identity, history, immigration, assimilation, and marginality. Through this work, I came to understand cultural migration on a personal level, and drew attention to the importance of diversity to a larger audience. Feeling I had thoroughly addressed the concept of cultural identity, I dramatically changed the direction of my work, creating whimsical, textile sculptures for another decade. However in January of 2011, I traveled to Cuba for the first time with my immediate family members to visit Havana and to meet relatives that chose to stay behind. Despite my belief that I had long ago moved away from creating work about Cuban lineage, I returned inspired based on this life changing experience.
Cuban-American Piñatas is a response to my witnessing a sea of commodities, medicines and food being carried into Cuba in suitcases by U.S. visitors to assist those who have no access to necessary, daily items. Instead of candy, a mound of personal commodities like toothpaste, razors and socks lies on the ground amongst eight suspended suitcases made of papier-mâché cardboard, and covered with adhered strips of hand-cut tissue paper. The installation draws attention to the unfavorable conditions in Cuba, as well as the economic failings of the government. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara’s revolution was supposed to rectify economic and social inequality, yet, five decades later and now under Raúl Castro’s governance, these injustices continue with expatriates trying to bridge the disparity gap. Foreign remittances (money sent to Cuba by émigrés) are estimated at more than $2 billion a year, the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy has added another $2.5 billion in goods, pharmaceuticals and food, items which the Cuban government taxes heavily.
For the Then and Now Series commodities were photographed and digitally altered using Adobe Photoshop, before being printed and heat transferred onto white linen stretched over hand built wooden frames. Organza was then hand dyed and/or painted, pleated, and cut into rows, each layer hand stitched onto the linen to simulate a piñata’s surface. The stylized look of Alberto Korda’s iconic Che Guevara portrait was used as a model for digitally manipulating 21 Cuban revolution and government images, which were subsequently heat transfer printed onto organza panels. These mixed-media pieces juxtapose the past and present within. one work - overlapping history - images which represent the revolution and the hopes that came with it, with images of items currently in need brought into Cuba by Cuban-Americans; there is an intentional irony to the representation and cause of elation by two different events fifty years apart.