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Alexis Esquivel
 "La Luna me esta mirando"  
Harvard University Art Exhibit, Dudley House

March 14 - April 28 2001
Click on images below to maximize

“Danubio azul”(Blue Danube) acrylic on canvass, 2000 This painting was inspired by a photograph of Lina Ruz, the mother of Fidel Castro that appeared in a 1959 issue of Bohemia magazine.  Decrying the political violence that had claimed so many lives, the photo of Ruz, shown praying the rosary, bears a caption which reads, “Aquí estoy Señor, y vine a pedir por todos” (Here I am Lord, and I came to pray for all). Danube Azule

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“Iya” acrylic on canvass 2001 Mariana Granjales, the mother of Afrocuban independence fighter General Antonio Maceo, occupies the mythical role in Cuban history of being the mother of the people.  A symbol of motherhood as well as Afrocuban pride, Mariana is pictured here playing the lead batá drum, known as Iyá, or the Mother Drum.  Batá are ritual drums played by those of Yoruba descent and for religious purposes are only sanctioned to be played by men. This painting also acts as an homage to Cuban artist Belkys Ayon (1968-1999).  Much of Ayon’s work dealt with the Abakuá, an Afrocuban secret society open only to men. 

Iya

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“Soap Opera”  acrylic on canvass, 1998-2000 Before the Revolution, Cuban actress Consuelito Vidal was the spokeswoman for Rina brand soap.  A picture of the smiling actress opening a window appeared alongside the slogan, “Hay que tener fé…que toda llega.”  (You have to have faith…that everything will come).  Rina was nationalized in the period following the Revolution, and the brand name disappeared.  In the 1990’s with financial backing from a “mixed enterprise” with foreign companies, the Rina brand reappeared in Cuba. Consuelo has returned as the spokeswoman for the same product, this time with the new slogan, “Limpia y dura más” (It cleans and lasts longer).

Soap Opera

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Twentieth Century Cuba”  oil on canvass,1998.  This painting mixes images that are familiar to the North American viewer—the 20th Century Fox logo, King Kong, Lady Liberty, and mafioso gangsters—alongside images drawn from Cuban history and culture.  The allegorical figure of Cuba lies tied to the railroad tracks, a cubist mambí (independence fighter) holds his machete high, King Kong stands atop the Lopez Serrano building with a iddé (Afrocuban religious bracelet) around his wrist while Soviet MIGs zip around his head.

20th Century Cuba

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“Un Gran paso para la Humanidad”(A Giant Step for Mankind) acrylic on canvass,2000 Cuban advertisements featuring women typically portray young mulata or white women in suggestive poses. The face of Doña Delicias, appearing on a Cuban brand of mayonnaise, is one of the only cases where a mature black woman appears in Cuban marketing.  There was a tradition of portraying a black nursemaid character on jars of Cuban mayonnaise before the revolution, and in a sense the Doña Delicias label revives this tradition, converting the Aunt-Jemima-like figure into a more realistic-looking symbol of the socialist worker.
Un Gran Paso Para La Humanidad 

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Apuntes para la comprensión del tema” (Sketches for the Comprehension of the Theme) acrylic on canvass, 2000 In this painting, the artist enters into a dialogue with the different ways that gender and sexuality have been represented in visual media over time, by bringing together a variety of images in a collage-like presentation.  The most striking image in the painting, that of the blonde woman in the red dress, is inspired by the label of a brand of Cuban rum, “Ron Mulata.”  The rum, marketed to tourists, displays on its label a “mulata” who is curiously a very Spanish-looking brunette.  Here, Esquivel merely completes her transfiguration. 
Apuntes Para La Comprension del Tema

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“Cuarto menguante”(Quarter-waned Moon)acrylic on canvass, 2000. Pictured here is the mother of Elián González, known in the press (both in Cuba and in the United States) only by her first name, Elizabet. The portrait is taken from a photograph which appeared in Time magazine in January, 2000.
Cuarto Menguante

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 “El misterioso encanto de la sensibilidad femenina” (The Mysterious Charm of Feminen Sensibility) acrylic on canvass 1999-2001 Statues of male lions guard the Parque Central that runs along Havana’s Prado boulevard.  Today, the Parque Central is a place where gender contracts are constantly being negotiated, often, in this day of international tourism, in hard currency.  
Sensibilidad Femenina

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“Relevecion” (Relevetion) acrylic on canvass, 2000 Vilma Espín, former wife of Raul Castro, was a member of the Women’s Brigade during the Cuban Revolution and is the president of the Federación de Mujeres Cubanas (The Federation of Cuban Women).  This painting was inspired by her wedding portrait.  The couple’s daughter wished to pursue a career as a dancer but was discouraged by her parents and her later marriage to a dancer from the National Ballet proved to be something of a scandal.  
Relevecion

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“Apuntes para la comprension del simbolo” (Sketches for the Comprehension of the Symbol) oil on canvass, 2000 The steps leading up to the University of Havana bear an uncanny resemblance to the Lincoln Memorial.  At the top of the steps sits a sculpture of a seated woman, arms outstretched—the Alma Mater.  The sculptor used two models for his representation of the Alma Mater.   The first, a young white girl, he used as the model for the statue’s face.  The second, a mulata woman, he used for the contours of her body.


Apuntes para la comprension del simbolo

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“Medalla de plata!” (Silver Medal!) acrylic on canvass, 2001 Cuba’s sports industry is a vital part of its national identity.  Pride in female athletes, a majority of whom are Afrocuban, and an aesthetic appreciation for athletic female bodies has grown in recent years.  Certain athletic activities, however, are still considered off-limits for women.  The Cuban sports institute recently declared its opposition to women’s participation in boxing, saying that such an activity goes against the nature of feminine bodies.  The image etched in the medal is from a political cartoon from the 1920’s in which Cuba’s fledgling feminists were being ridiculed as unnatural and masculine.

Medalla de plata

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