Las Balsas Artist Statement

Las Balsas (The Rafts)
Balsa Artifacts
(1995-1999)

The process of finding research material for a series is often as interesting as the creation of the paintings. 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 contact 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.By attracting the viewer into the paintings, I hoped to have them examine the vessels and then, perhaps, they would wonder about what might have happened on each raft. It is unclear if the inhabitants were successful or not from looking at the rafts. Many of these rafts and boats were found in the open waters off of the keys with no one inside and no traces of what might have happened.

These rafts have become silent remnants of great human tragedies.

More examples from these series are available.