La Raza Artists in Cuba, 2011
La Raza Artists is a group of Canadian artists interested in cross-cultural exchanges and projects. These encounters provide a spark for valuable collaborative experiences. As a collective, the artists come from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, but have a common interest in directly creative, challenging encounters and exchanges with artist, both in Canada and worldwide.
In January, we were invited on a cultural program to Cuba to spend several weeks in the town of Santiago de Cuba working on a project. In this time, we completing an exhibition of paintings and drawings, as well as painted a large mural.
Designing this 1200 square foot mural was a collaborative process between four artists: Gerald Pedros, Brian Saby, Esther Rausenberg and myself. Designing was complete in three days, and painting in six. The mural is located on a prominent wall at a busy intersection on Calle Garzon in Santiago.
Called ‘Punto de Contacto’ (‘Point of Contact’), the mural is based on themes that we had begun to explore in our exhibition in Merida, Mexico the previous year (March 2010). It is a visualization of Canada in a tapestry-like format, presenting encounters between landscape, people, animals and other elements. We intended it to read as a ‘map’ of our collective experience of place. The canoe, the main means for accessing the Canadian wilderness and opening up the country, floats over a grid of contemporary highway systems. Figures based on photographs by Esther of Kokoro Dance, (a butoh-based dance troupe in Vancouver), are superimposed on and through the landscape. The animal symbols emerging from the canoe are derived from native imagery, suggesting legends of hunting and trapping. Lastly, the traditional bird of Cuba, called Tocororo, or Guatani, appears on a postage stamp, juxtaposed with a pair of northern ravens.
We had enthusiastic assistance from Cuban muralists and friends from the Taller de Cultural on this project. This cultural centre, under its director, Israel Tamayo, is a highly active printmaking, sculpture, ceramics and painting studio that works with basic facilities and supplies, yet manages to produce excellent works. Their muralists were an important and skilled team to work with.
The gallery exhibition was presented in the Ex-American Embassy in Santiago for the first two weeks on January. We used five rooms of the gallery with works painted on Mylar, a velum-like transparent film. Excellent for graphite drawing and collage, it served our purposes for portability and ease of installation.
RT, January 21, 2011