Interview by Shani Peters
Questions to Scherezade Garcia
Visual Concepts and stylistic traditions
Professor Lise Kjaer
Often when an artist with immigrant roots address transit, their work is categorized around the theme of displacement. I don’t get this sense from your work. Can you talk about it…about your discussion of transitory experiences vs. the idea of displacement? Can you talk about your notion of home?
My decision to migrate was born by the opportunity to choose and by affinity.
The opportunity to choose a place where I felt I could belong to and by it affinities with my values as a citizen..
Migration is a universal issue and a timeless one as well.
Since the beginnings of times humans have traveled from one place to another for a wide variety of reasons (we still do); even landed on the Moon. There were groups of people that were forced to migrate, and such experience as a community justifies a sense of displacement in their history. There were groups that migrate with dreams for better opportunities to work, for political and religious freedom, looking for riches, from curiosity, conquering new frontiers and others reasons. Taking in consideration such diverse reasons, it is not surprise to find very different stories and different beliefs and mythology between communities.
The human saga fascinates me, as well as social and political events that change the course of a nation and even a singular event that changes the political dynamic of a family and defines the life decisions of its members.
These experiences, people, conversations are the sources of my inspiration.
One thing that is always in my mind when discussing migration or people in transit is the fact that the nations become what they are for the movement of people that come and go while bringing different flavors and different sound to the places, everything is always moving, everything has to evolve. That whole mixing and moving is beauty to me.
I have given so many thoughts to the meaning of “home”. I never felt that I fully belong to the land I was born to, yet I adore it, I know by experience that the meaning of home is complex and even painful. I see it as one of those love stories where people love each other so much but cannot live together. In my contradictory tradition many times “the Dominican community” is my muse but I live far apart to survive the oppressive love of the island. It is complicated and inspiring!!
I like to say that I come from a place where Christians and Africans, and whoever touched our coast, mixed together to become one race. It is a hybrid paradise, which I adore.
I also come from a land with many frontiers, divisions, conflict, lies and sanctified liars.
I need to create beauty from all of these to protect my land, to protect myself. A protection from our historical faults and pride as well.
Baroque and Tropical are two words that come up a lot in your discussion of your work. Can you talk about their relationship to one another?
Well, yes these words come off very often in my conversations and explanations of the soul of my pieces.
I grew up with wonderful stories and very interesting characters in my family.
I grew up listening from one side of the family stories dating from 1844 (independence from Haiti) my great aunts (still alive in their nineties) using poetry when talking about our Independence Day. This part of the family comes from French and mulatto heritage.
Together with other two families they were founders of San Cristobal, city where our Constitution was signed. After a while they marry Spaniards and kept very European values, (contradictorily) disliking Spain and choosing” Indian Taino’ names for my aunts and Grandmother. My great grandfather was the first lawyer of the town and my grandma was educated in the same level as my grandfather when that was very uncommon for a woman. She later became a writer and wrote her last book when she was 85 years old. This part of the family is very aristocratic a la Caribbean.
I also grew up listening to the stories of my other side of the family, both Spaniards from
Andalusia, more recent emigrants to the island. This side of the family got into the business of Tobacco and got very involved in politics and business .My grandfather went to study in Belgium (math) and visited New York for the first time (1915). I had the chance of listening to his stories about New York and I still remember the descriptions of how surprised and enchanted he was of the city. This part of the family is very artistic and entrepreneurs.
As for my parents, my father is a civil engineer and bridge designer and my mother whom also studied engineering decided to stay home with her kids after being very active in the Revolution and the feminist movement in my country. All these stories are told with lot of embellishment and the casual nationalistic poetry in between.
Everything lives in my memory and in my skin.
After going through the endless summers, the heat, and the humidity. And the music an exotic blend of the Spanish drama and sweetness of Africa sounds. How can I be minimalist??
My idea of Tropical is based in contrast of extremes. For example; let’s imagine furniture that belong to Marie Antoinette court in Versailles surrounded by Plantains trees. Or in the country side People are very Catholic, but just in case they keep a “Santeria” altar
The African version of Catholics faith. Politics and religion, weddings and funerals, love and death in a very colorful manner walk hand in hand in the Tropic where the sun is so hot people start imagining things. The landscape is always full, exuberant either full of plants. …or motorcycles.
Barroquism and tropicalism walk hand in hand.
Your mestizo figure has a reoccurring presence in your work and is quite distinctive, can you talk about how this figure was developed??
How this figure meets conceptually with your reference to Catholic iconography and composition?
Since I was very young I enjoyed challenging the idea of beauty. I found beauty in objects and in people that were not considered beautiful in my culture. I remember that as a young child I was fascinated by Asian physical beauty and any artifact from Asia was treasure to me. I also grew up with books full with gorgeous pictures by Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and reading at night the collection of tales from“the Arabian nights”. I took all this in, the central composition of the classic paintings, and the representation of figure in the Persian illuminations, and the cinnamon colored people working in the streets of my country. The mestizo characters in my paintings represent the center of my storytelling. I appropriate and transform different visual elements to create new paintings
That represent the consequequences of the discovery of the Americas, the catholic colonization, and I do so by recolonizing the transplanted European artistic values.
By using Contemporary landscapes and issues my mestizo character comes to be a balance between the old times and new times, representing all the colors of our skin as well.
You are an exuberant drawer. How does your “hand” fit into your work conceptually?
I create beauty with lines. The physical and emotional experience of drawing is essential to my art making process.
When I draw, I make marks that record the history of my times in the most personal manner. Also when you draw, there is an invention of visual codes .The creation of these codes lead you to the most playful compositions and intriguing meanings!
Your work makes unexpected utilization of color pink. Why??
It is not that pink is my favorite color.
This pink factor in my pieces was born in 1997, when I started developing pieces about
“Salvation” and “migration”. Pink is associated with “baby girl”, “fragility”, “princess”.
Everything coming from a woman experience or voice is underestimated; every unrealistic dream is packaged in pink. But “what it seems it is not exactly what it is “.
By using pink in my lifesaver (as the emigrant dream is sold) and my pieces of “Paradise”, I intend to change conception linked to pink.
I’m curious about the significance of your drawing directly on the pink lifesavers you make for your project along the coast , can you talk about it?
Yes! That was an emotionally exhausting project. I wanted to act up .I wanted to create a action where questions will be asked and thoughts will provoked. In Sabana de la Mar , the town from which my fellow Dominicans have launched uncounted fateful voyages to Puerto Rico. I went to produce lifesaver in the beach and to interview people whom had been involved in those trips or families of dead passenger. I listened to their stories and I translated their words to my visual language by drawing on the lifesavers.
The physical and emotional action of drawing was aform of sharing a sense of salvation.