PUERTO RICAN LIBERATION
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2017, Mixed media on canvas, 18" x 14". Created for the Debt Fair/ Occupy Museums installation at the 2017 Whitney Biennial, NYC. The Puerto Rican archipelago is presented within a nebula. From the main island emerges the face of Political Prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera, held by the US for 35 years on sedition charges. His sentence was commuted by Obama 1 week after I completed this work.
Dignity- Dissent-Pedro Albizu Campos
2017 Acrylic on canvas, 12" x 12". Created for the CitiCien Defend PR exhibition, commemorating 100 years of the Jones Act that made Puerto Ricans citizens of the US, strategically the same year the US entered WWI. Nationalist Party leader Pedro Albizu Campos is pictured here in his US Army uniform that same year and later in a gesture representing his fierce fight against US colonialism. The central figure and black and white are of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party flag.
La Libertad-Elizam Escobar
2016, Acrylic on canvas, 30" x 24". Former Puerto Rican prisoner, Elizam Escobar, held by the US for 20 years on sedition charges, is depicted in a transcendent state reflecting on his quote: that which we call freedom is not a state of being but a practice.
La Libertad-Oscar Lopez Rivera
2016, Mixed media on canvas, 24" x 36". Created for the traveling exhibition, Una Sola Voz which brings together over 50 artists in support of the excarcelation of Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera, pictured here among many other heroes that have defended Puerto Rico's natural right to liberation. Words are from our original revolutionary anthem, La Borinqueña by Lola Rodriguez de Tío.Una Sola Voz remains on view in San Sebastian until Oscar's return home in May of 2017.
Somos Muchos-Oscar Lopez Rivera
2015, Mixed media on canvas, 30" x 24". Created for the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez conference, Luchas de Ayer, Ahora y Siempre (?) on Puerto Rican political prisoners past and present. Oscar Lopez Rivera is presented among a selection of ancestors who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of Puerto Rico. Within his portrait we see a selection of the comrades who like him have served as political prisoners for wanting the freedom of their country.
Quienes Somos-Oscar Lopez Rivera
Quienes Somos, Who are We. Superimposed over the "Somos Muchos" painting are the names of all the Puerto Rican freedom fighters collaged into this portrait of Puerto Rican political prisoner of 35 years, Oscar Lopez Rivera.
Esas Estrellas- Rafael Cancel Miranda
2015, Acrylic on burlap, approx 30" x 39" Tribute to Rafael Cancel Miranda, former political prisoner who served 25 years on sedition charges and was pardoned by US President Jimmy Carter in 1979. The quote comes from his book dedication for his publication Mis Dioses llevan tu Nombre (2000). (Hay estrellas en el cielo que no vemos porque no las buscamos. La razón de este libro es ayudar a encontrar a esas estrellas en nuestros propios cielos.)
2006, Acrylic on Burlap, 72" x 39 1/2" Ay como lo escupieron Como lo empujaron Como lo llevaron a crucificar -excerpt from "El Todopoderoso" This work references the radiation experiments that the US government conducted on the father of Puerto Rican Nationalism Pedro Albizu Campos. These were secretly administered in the form of bright white or multicolored lights that would flash in his cell & in his hospital room. Albizu suffered burns & seizures, ultimately passing from cancer in 1965.
Patria Ensangrentada-Filiberto Ojeda Rios
2006, Acrylic on canvas, 63" x 40". (Nation left bleeding, but never undone). These words of Puerto Rican Nationalist poet Julia de Burgos come from her poem 23 de septiembre, about the 1868 Lares revolution. On the same date, in 2005, the FBI assassinated the revolutionary leader of Los Macheteros, Filiberto Ojeda Rios, who had been in clandestinity for 15 years. He was shot and left to bleed to death behind his front door in Hormigueros, PR.
Querer Ser Libre- Dylcia Pagan
2006, Acrylic, seashells and peacock feathers on canvas. 24" x 36". Portrait of former Puerto Rican political prisoner Dylcia Pagan as I remembered her during an afternoon we spent at the sea, behind her home in Loiza, Puerto Rico. The quote is of Ramon Emeterio Betances, (The desire to be free is to begin being free)
Raising Revolution-Pedro Albizu Campos
2004, Mixed media on canvas, 48" x 30" This portrait of Pedro Albizu Campos shows him in his US Army uniform, but the piece itself focuses on the many revolutionaries who received their training in either the US military or US schools. Puerto Ricans were made citizens of the US in 1917, strategically the year the US entered WWI. However Puerto Rico cannot vote in presidential elections, having no say in the commander of chief of the many who serve the US armed forces.
All That You Can Be
2004, Mixed media on canvas, Diptych, 30" x 48". All That You Can Be summons childhood memories of Park Slope Brooklyn, seeing Puerto Rican Vietnam veterans. Gentrification pushed us out of the neighborhood but I returned to exhibit my work in 2004 & saw the veteran I painted on the left. This is a juxtaposition between the myth & glory of the military sold to our youth & the atrocities of war & the realities that veterans encounter back home. Puerto Ricans have fought in US wars since 1917.
Pesar y Orgullo de la revolucionaria-Lolita Lebron
2004, Mixed media on canvas, 48" x 24". This portrait of Puerto Rican Nationalist Lolita Lebron shows her at the time of her arrest having led an armed protest at the US Capitol on March 4, 1954. She is nude with prison bars glazed over her flesh, marking the double standard imposed on women revolutionaries and the violation of their bodies as political prisoners. The collage features revolutionary women of color.
Sin Miedo-Para Lolita
2003, (Fearless) Acrylic on canvas, 36" x 18", private collection. This painting of Lolita Lebron at the time of her arrest on March 4, 1954 shows the fearless revolutionary, and the intrepid scale of her acts of that day, leading an armed protest over a meeting of the US House of Representatives, demanding that they Free Puerto Rico. Lolita & her comrades served 25 years before Jimmy Carter commuted their sentences.
Independence Day-March 1st., 1954
1998, Mixed media on canvas, 6' x 4'. Created for the centennial of the US invasion of Puerto Rico. This scene of the arrests of 4 Puerto Rican Nationalists outside of the US capitol on March 1st, 1954, a Puerto Rican flag glazed over the landmark. The background is an inverted copy of the US constitution & the foreground, upon which they stand is an inverted copy of the US Declaration of Independence, colonialism turned on its head. I lived 5 blocks from Independence Hall in Philly at the time.
Follow The Leader-Pedro Albizu Campos
1998, Oil on canvas, 30" x 24". The title says it all. Nearly 20 years later I am still a heavy follower of Albizu Campos and his teachings. I see this and hear the warm and cozy hook of Eric B and Rakim's "Follow the Leader" playing in my ear. "remember, you're not a slave 'Cause we were put here to be much more than that But we couldn't see because our mind was trapped But I'm here to break away the chains, take away the pains"
1996. Oil, collage on canvas, 51" x 34" Created in the underpainting/ glaze technique, this image borrows from the composition of Paul Revere's The Bloody Massacre. The Ponce Massacre, took place in my parents' hometown when the US colonial police chief revoked a parade permit on Palm Sunday commemorating the abolition of slavery. When the people marched anyway, the police opened fire on them killing 21 & wounding around 200.
Proclaim Your Emancipation
1996. Oil, copper pigment & pennies on canvas, 42" x 48". Proclaim Your Emancipation is a play on Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, replacing his image on the penny with that of Puerto Rican liberationist Pedro Albizu Campos. The composition is a copper Puerto Rican flag, a canvas wishing well for liberation.
1996, Mixed media on canvas, 48" x 32". This image is a criticism of the statehood movement, juxtaposing Pedro Albizu Campos, other nationalist revolutionaries, Puerto Rican gangsters and striking laborers with references to colonialism & sterilization in Puerto Rico.
1995, Oil on canvas. 48" x 37 1/2". Painted during my junior year/ BFA program at Cornell University. 51st State is technically my first portrait of the 4 Nationalists arrested in Washington on March 1st 1954. Lolita Lebron is the star and Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores, and Andres Figueroa Cordero are the rifles. Together they dissolve the colonial relationship of Puerto Rico to the US, hence the falling stars and the Navy blue of both flags.
Pedro Albizu Campos
1994, Silkscreen on Paper, 14" x 8". This first portrait of mine of Pedro Albizu Campos was inspired by the book that sparks every young Puerto Rican's journey into their hidden history, Ronald Fernandez' Prisoners of Colonialism. Today that book may very well be Nelson Denis' War Against All Puerto Ricans. I was 19 and eagerly researching all things Don Pedro. Black and white are the colors of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party.
My art practice has always been influenced, informed, & inspired by Puerto Rican liberation. Art was the space in which I, as a teen, processed my father’s lessons on the hidden history of Puerto Rico. Coinciding with my years as an art student at LaGuardia High School in NYC, then at Cornell University, art was how I documented my process of self-education & affirmation. This gallery includes individual works on Puerto Rican liberation. Where other galleries on this site focus on various projects, Puerto Rican liberation is a thread that runs through all of these. After two decades working as an artist and activist around Puerto Rican liberation, I left New York City where I was born and raised and moved to my parents’ birthplace of Borikén, committing holistically, body, mind, and spirit, to this journey. Living here has broadened my perspective on liberation and the pursuit of it. Puerto Rican liberation is the nexus from which I branch out and explore all else in this island, in this archipelago, in this Diaspora, in this world, and in this universe. Living here has taught me that my political views are less aligned with any singular party, organization, or school of thought, but with this land itself, my ultimate teacher and guide in this lifetime.