Las Balsas (The Rafts)

Balsa Artifacts
1995 – 1999

The process of finding the appropriate research material is often as interesting as the actual creation of a painting. In the summer of 1995, I went to Miami to do some research for the Appropriated Memories Series. While in Miami, I went to the library in Key West to look at their Cuban archives. I soon heard about the work that was being done at the Cuban Refugee Center on Stock Island. The Cuban Refugee Center provided temporary housing for many Cuban immigrants who had arrived to the keys on rafts. The Center also provided medical assistance, food and helped the immigrants in contacting their relatives in the United States. The Center also housed a small collection of rafts and materials used by Cubans who attempted the 90-mile crossing. I had a few relatives who had come to America on rafts but I also had a grandmother who did not survive the voyage. The visit was very moving and upon arriving back to my studio in western New York, I began “las balsas” series.

The vessels were portrayed in manner that would suggestive a sense of silence. The work was presented as minimal altarpieces. I hoped that by drawing in the viewer into the paintings, they would begin to examine the vessels and then, perhaps, wonder about what might have happened on each raft. It is unclear if the inhabitants were successful or not. Many of these types of rafts and boats were found in the open waters off of the keys with no one inside of them and no traces of what might have happened. These rafts have become silent remnants of great human tragedies.

Series contains 28 painting and 4 sculptures.

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