“Paradise Redefined” was a large-scale, multimedia installation. The installation was inspired by the hopes and dreams of the close–knit Dominican communities of New York, where I found endless complexity in the process of assimilation, the growing of new roots here while also maintaining connections to family and friends in the Dominican Republic.
The installation examines the issues of what really defines home and national identity and it explores the expectations of finding a paradise on new soil. The installation consists in a group of soft sculptures resembling tents that are lighted from within and serve as a metaphor for hearth and home as well as transience.
The outer surfaces of the tents display a montage of images. Printed photographs of the city, the apartment buildings and storefronts of Washington Heights are layered with graffiti like drawings. Religious, cultural symbols are incorporated into the imagery of the city along with glimpses of tropical landscapes. Viewing the sculptures one can hear conversations in Spanish describe expectations of life in the United States along with the realities of life in New York. These voices mingle with sounds from the street, traffic, music, laughter, and vendors. There is also a very large video projection of waves breaking on a shore, suggesting both the island of Manhattan and that of the Dominican Republic. Sounds of the ocean wash over the room. Gold inner tubes hang throughout the installation, alluding to the risks involved in making the journey across the Mona Canal between Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. The Mona Canal is the point of entry to the United States. This art piece evokes memories of another time and place in a contemporary urban setting, also suggesting the larger, universal saga of the immigrant experience. This piece also included “Era Gloriosa/ Glorious Era”, an animated video that references merengue and island politics underthe dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. Innocent and disarmingly child-like drawings underline my serious comments on the dictatorship, the cause of the first exodus of Dominicans to New York.