Social and cultural issues have been an important part of my work since 1985. The earlier work concentrated on a mix of abstract and representational iconography that incorporated images from my past and present and connections to American popular culture and my Cuban heritage. The Autobiography Series (1985-87), the Black Lace Series (1987-89) and the Binary forms Series (1988-92) are examples of works from this period. The work tried to create an avenue for which to reexamine issues that affected the way I perceive the environment around me. While the images made specific references to past memories, Cuban iconography, art history and contemporary art theory, it was clear to me that some of the imagery might not be accessible to the public. I hoped, however, that I could create a connection with the audience through the specific stylistic approaches and a juxtaposition of the diverse imagery that addressed universal themes relating to identity and alienation.
In 1992, I became more interested in creating paintings that made clear realistic references to Cuban culture, religion, food, politics and its relevance in American society. The Madonnas of Western New York Series (1991-93), the Madonnas in Time Series (1993-95), Icons Series (1993-95), Las Balsas and Balsas Artifacts Series (1995-99), Appropriated Memories Series (1996-97) and the Cuban Portraits (1997-99) are examples of work from this period. The Madonnas Series and the Appropriated Memories Series investigated how the landscape could represent and symbolize a specific culture.
In 1997, I began thinking about the next phase of my artistic career. I was interested in creating work that explored contemporary society, art and culture from a different perspective than what I had explored in the past. The Studio Retablos Series (1997-99) was a transitional body of work that connected the older body of work to the more recent Trout Encountered Series and Biological Regionalism Series. The Studio Retablos Series incorporated many eclectic experiences that had deeply influenced my work but were not specifically used in any of the previous series. The series appropriated found paintings with realistic imagery from my past experiences.
The Trout Encountered Series (2000-2004) and Biological Regionalism Series (2005- present) started soon after Studio Retablos Series. This was also the time that I started a youth fly fishing program and became a fly fishing guide. The series of paintings and videos reexamined the validity of regionalism in contemporary art and the utilization of angling art, art history, environmentalism and biology as a vehicle to examine contemporary society. The work continues to sensitize the audience to elements of their own environment that have been overlooked but that yet characterize their region. The Aesthetic of Death Series (2007- Present) uses nature and painting as a metaphor for human life and death. After experiencing the death of several family members and illnesses, I began the series as a way to deal with the fragility and the richness of life.
Investigations related to the Biological Regionalism Series took to me bodies of water throughout the United States, Caribbean, Europe and Asia. During the exhibition of the Biological Regionalism: Scajaquada Creek, Erie County, New York, USA at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, NY in 2014, I was asked to consider doing a similar project in Kathmandu, Nepal. The next two years were spent working on the Bagmati River Art Project as Jason Dilworth, a colleague at SUNY Fredonia, and I took two trips to Kathmandu to finish the multi-faceted project that included an exhibition, publication, video documentary and website.
In 2015, the Extinct Birds Project began after seeing a drawer full of extinct birds at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, New York. The next three years were spent answering the following questions: How did the specimens get here? Should they have been collected if they later went extinct? Where were these birds collected? What were their lives like? Who collected them, how and why? How were the specimens preserved? The research and artwork were used in a publication, video, website (www.extinctbirdsproject.com) and exhibitions.
In 2019, the Lost Beauty Projects started as a collaboration between the University of Buffalo’s Anderson Gallery and the Buffalo Museum of Science. Lost Beauty: Part I exhibition took place at the Anderson Gallery in the summer of 2019 and Lost Beauty: Part II took place in 2021. Part I concentrated on the paintings and videos from the Extinct Birds Project with specimens from the Buffalo Museum of Science. Part II concentrated on paintings depicting small but significant artifacts from the Buffalo Museum of Sciences collection.
In 2020, during the Covid pandemic, the Lost Beauty Project: Icebergs was created. These are devotional paintings of icebergs that broke off from one of the fastest receding glaciers in the world, the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier in Iceland. The glaciers were documented in 2004 and in 2013 while doing research for the Biological Regionalism Series. I was deeply moved by the large solitary ice sculptures. I hoped that one day I would create a series of paintings that would capture their beauty, the effects of climate change and the fragility of nature. Since each glacier only lasts around five years, all of these glaciers are gone forever.