Now that I have the ability to work with sculpture in this residency, I'm hoping I can incorporate all of these ideas into a more 3-dimensional series. I'm debating wether or not this will be a Lazos de Sangre component or a sort of off shoot. I'm toying with names and researching Santerxs from the Caribbean. They're traditionally catholic figures (saints, biblical figures etc.) whittled in wood. They're very stiff and quite small. They've been made in Puerto Rico since the Spanish colonized the island but have been recently re-appropriated by women and revolutionaries in some really interesting ways. The figures are believed to have healing powers and are usually displayed in an at home altar. Campesinos usually had them because they couldn't always make it to a brick and mortar church to worship so devout catholics practiced at home. It's an interesting and bittersweet practice simply because many of these religious practices overshadowed Taino mythology that was prevalent on the island. Similar things happened in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti and other Caribbean cultures. Fast forward to the present day, many Latinx's practice blends of Taino, Catholic and African religions. The most popular is Santeria. It's been romanticized recently in shows like Orange is the New Black. I kind of like seeing something I grew up knowing on popular television, but it also feels a little grimy because of it's complicated history.
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!
This blog functions as a space for me to articulate what goes into making my artwork.