On Tuesday, June 21st, Cuban contemporary artist Sandra Ramos spoke about her work at the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art. Her art represents deeply personal accounts of the connection between herself, society and Cuba. Sandra breaks through censorship issues to present an honest view of Cuba by discussing issues such as migration, political education and cultural contradictions. The paintings and exhibits that she creates make audiences take an introspective look at the effects of various influences in their lives and how those aspects affect them.
Sandra most prominently addresses the pervasive contradictions of everyday life, which has caused plenty of confusion, uncertainty and pain on her own part, and serves as an underlying theme in all of her paintings and displays. Two of these works include The Damned Circumstance of Water Everywhere (right), portraying her body as being part of the Cuban island where she cannot escape, but cannot fully integrate either and her 90 Miles bridge (below), representing how close and connected the United States and Cuba really are, yet they are incredibly distant and separated at the same time.
Art of this nature is incredibly valuable to us on multiple levels. On a large scale, it reveals the nature of the Cuban art scene and provides us insight into the contradictions of government, society and everyday life and the commentary that artists offer. The 90 Miles display again comes to mind by representing Cuba’s physical proximity to the United States by connecting images of Miami and Havana with the structure, but reminds us with the images of the Florida Straits in between the cities that a sea noticeably separates the two lands, both literally and ideologically. Personally, we can experience the emotions of an individual Cuban as she endures the challenges of everyday life in Cuba. Finally, displays such as Life Doesn’t Fit in a Suitcase (bottom) even help us connect on a technical level, where her use of old-style, ‘50s-era suitcases represents Cubans’ inability to purchase modern versions shows how the embargo affects artists by limiting their supplies, while also promoting ingenuity in expression through the medium of what is available at the time.
The most important aspect of bringing Cuban artists, such as Sandra, and their work to us in the United States is that they really prove that while many differences still exist between our two countries, so much is the same. This should bring us together instead of force us apart.
All photos are courtesy of Sandra Ramos's website. To learn more about Sandra and her work you can visit her website here.