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Relics of Memories: Art Inspired by Heritage and History

Coronado printstudio is a space where artists can eliminate barriers and engage in open

dialogues around history, identity, and critical issues of our time. Our mission stems from the importance of providing a haven for productive discussions on art and its role in contemporary American culture, with an emphasis on a more diverse American experience/identity.

Artists can explore and manifest these ideas through printmaking regardless of their skill level with the medium by working in collaboration with the studio's Master Printer, Pepe Coronado.

The selected works for [this exhibition] demonstrate dedication towards celebrating a historically oppressed culture and its resilience against the forces that have tried to continuously eradicate it. These artists expose their realities on issues of race, immigration, and social justice by honoring rituals and cultural relics of their community.

While these artists act as commentators on these themes, their works themselves are also a response to other catalysts that resonated with their experiences. Vladimir Cybil Charlier’s Strange Bath is inspired after the single, Strange Fruit by American jazz and swing music singer, Billie Holiday, which talks about the lynching of blacks in the US as an overlapping element between the American and Caribbean racial issues. Inspired by and titled after a New York Times article by Michael Henry Adams, Karen Revis’ The End of Black Harlem quotes the news piece in her screenprint, which narrates the powerless witnessing of how Black Harlem dies due to gentrification. Lastly, Alex Guerrero's Tu afro no cabe en la foto was created as a response of an article with the same title from El País newspaper, written by Dominican writer and singer-songwriter, Rita Indiana, who commented on a racial prejudice incident in the Dominican Republic.

These artists become receptors and reinforce the efforts of other creators to inform, empower and mobilize their audience by accompanying their ideas with visual representations, which plays a crucial role when it comes to issues like representation in media. Arcadia Reyes-Caraballo depicts a ‘woman of color, gorda (fat), linda (pretty), mayor or madura (older or perfectly ripe) and confident on her own skin’ with her screenprint, ¡Esa negra tiene tumbao! (That Black Woman has Style/Her Own Rhythm). The title pays tribute to the iconic song by Cuban-American singer, Celia Cruz, which celebrates the natural beauty and charisma of black women—features that Reyes-Carabayo seeks to illustrate in her work in order to inspire confidence among women that look like her.

Some of these artists reinforce their relationships with their audience by actively [inspiring] their work through their specific experiences in order to speak to the larger community. Marquita Flowers integrates her personal memories in her screenprint, Obeah Told by Uncle Clarence, San Pedro, Belize. The print includes a script from a story told by her uncle about a woman named Maemac, who is shown in the picture above with her son Bunny. Uncle Clarence narrates how Maemac struggled with a strange illness that doctors could not cure, and how she was healed through the practice of Obeah, a system of spiritual healing and justice-making practices developed among West African slaves in the West Indies. This recount of historical heritage can also be seen in Nadïne LaFond’s Bound by Earth and Chains: Homeland, which depicts a mirrored image of two women that connect through a chain. Her choice of using two linocut plates to depict seemingly identical images seeks to represent the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and their joint African ancestry. This serves as a reminder of the development and settlement of black communities in the Americas through slavery, and its repercussions afterward.

René de los Santos’ series, Ave Women illustrates anthropomorphic birds as a metaphor of migratory status and freedom, a quality De Los Santos believes is an inherent right of every

woman. De Los Santos dedicated this series to women of color in his life, who carry significant titles in the artistic or cultural sectors and who he admires deeply for their resilience, accomplishments and personalities. Many of these women are either immigrants or from immigrant families, and De Los Santos compares their movements between lands to the one of birds flying across borders. Vidho Lorville also addresses immigration through a more political lens with Border Control, which portrays a collage of passport stamps covering a figure's body. His body, now reduced to a passport book, displays his journeys between the Dominican Republic and the United States, whose admitted stamp rounds the figure’s head like a halo.

Coronado printstudio prides itself as a creative space that encourages artists to push their

conceptual and technical approaches through printmaking. The artists in this exhibition

undertook a recollection of memories and artifacts to create an extension of their identity. They analyzed a retrospective of their own significant responses, consequent to their relationship to their environment, resulting in a body of work meant to speak not only to their communities but also to themselves.

-Written by Palén Obesa, Coronado printstudio’s Collection Manager

(This essay was part of an exhibition curated by ​Phillip A. Townsend for the Art Galleries at Black Studies at the University of Texas).


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