I wanted to do this residency in order to dedicate more time and intention to my painting and to better connect to my mom and her childhood. My mom was born in Guantanamo, Cuba in 1960. She spent her early childhood in Caimanera, Cuba and then immigrated to Spain with my uncles and grandparents in 1970.
They only stayed in Spain for a couple of months before moving to the U.S navel base on Guantanamo where my grandpa worked construction. I think a lot about this history and wanted to create a project based on concepts of migration, borders, family, and memory.
Omar and Sarah connected me to so many artists and curators who helped me explore these themes. They introduced me to Dannys, a super knowledgeable curator who taught me so much about Cuban art. She really guided me in the formation of my project by showing me Cuban artists who have explored similar themes and walking me through the history of how Cuban art has shifted over time and politics. I was also introduced to photographers, educators, and gallery owners, and given the opportunity to go to presentations, gallery openings, and plays. I’m so thankful for the connections and opportunities Unpack gave me to explore in more depth the concepts I came to Cuba thinking about.
In the end, I decided to do a series of 3 paintings based on memories my mom has told me about her childhood. The first taking place in Caimanera, second in Madrid, and third on the US naval base. I was fascinated by the way memories are passed down as stories. How does my moms interpretation of an event appear differently in my imagination? How do memories mix and meld in our consciousness? In this sense memories have an almost fanatical element. In each painting I added a majá.
The majá is based off the legend of the madre de aguas- which takes the form of a giant majá who’s presence ensures that bodies or water remain full. To me the majá embodies stability, solitary independence, and providing life through water. In these traits I see parts of my mom.
Overall I feel so privileged to have been able to take this trip and to do this residency. I learned so much about Cuban art, politics, and my own family history. I was also able to explore Havana, connect with skateboarders, and complete my series of paintings. Would love to come back soon!