Today is day two and I will be meeting the Advanced Class this evening. I'll probably write about that tomorrow after my second day with the beginning class. As I've mentioned, I'm working on a new series involving embroidery, photography and various printmaking media. I'm referencing symbols and icons from my Puerto Rican and Dominican backgrounds in this series (see here!). It's called Lazos de Sangre which translates to bloodlines. Here I'm actively in the process of exploring my heritage but deliberately not really addressing my family proper. I feel that it is important for me to sort of reach back as far as I can into the history of both countries to better understand how that culture has morphed into what it is today in the States. It's difficult because growing up in a Latinx household, it is easy to assume that everything your family does is somehow influenced or similar to what happens on the island but in reality everything that happens on the mainland, down to the Spanish we speak is vastly different than the island. So I'm in a position as a second generation of Latinx living in the states that 1) speaks better Spanglish than Spanish, 2) Has never visited Puerto Rico (though I have been to DR) 3) Is considered by much of my family (in the most endearing way) the least Latinx of all Latinx. I'm white-passing, don't have an accent of any kind and am still learning about what it means to be Latinx. Granted I'm well pretty well versed in the history of both Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico but still my book smarts are somehow deemed less than the smarts others in my family gleaned from being on the island or living in the Barrio or Boogey Down Bronx. It's a hard road to navigate and I'm finally learning to express these somewhat suppressed feelings of cultural confusion through my artwork. In the process I'm reading tons of books and articles regarding Santeria, Taino Mythology, Feminism and the Latinx community, and the list goes on and on. A lot of the 2D pieces I've started are self-portraits I've shot and then manipulated post-printing. They've evolved tremendously and are very organic in nature. I tend to let them dictate what they need. I generally have an idea of what's going to be in the piece as far as which motif I'll use however, more often than not I'll add things on a whim or because it just feels right.
In my conversation with Line, we discussed how a lot of these cultural tid-bits are fraught with mistakes and over-romanticization. The US primarily re-appropriated the Taino for their benefit. A lot of what we know is kind of half-true and was often used as propaganda to placate Puerto Ricans during the US take over. The Taino mythology is often reduced to symbols to use to represent a culture that is long gone. It's idyllic and calls up ideas of a nation that was once close to the earth and innocent but was somehow saved by colonization. The Spanish are made to look like monsters and the US like saviors. It's complicated and gross but it happened and is still happening. Not only is Taino mythology distorted but our African heritage is often completely erased. Much of Santeria is rooted in the African cultures brought to the island through the slaves that were often dropped off on the island as cargo. Even Puerto Ricans and Dominicans have issues addressing their own African heritage, wanting instead to align with a more Euro-centric or Disney-fied indigenous heritage.
All of that said, I'm thinking about engaging this history by creating something that references the tensions. I'm thinking about using wood, plaster and multiples to convey these ideas. Below is a sculpture I started sketching out and a model I made to start with. It is a semi-realistic rendering of an Atabey (Taino goddess) that usually appears on T-Shirts or namesakes of PR companies. She is usually referred to as a fertility goddess. I'm thinking about taking these Taino gods and goddesses and making santos of them. I'm still working out how this will fit into everything I previously discussed. What side of the argument I'm exploring etc. I'm excited about the possibilities and looking at artists like Marisol Escobar and writers like Pinero, Junot Diaz and Julia Alvarez to help inform the process and articulate ideas in a more creative way. Now to take 10 more books out of the library and read all the things!!! Excitement!