Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

Painter Bertha Husband takes it for granted that Puerto Rican artist Elizam Escobar analyzes the ideas and images to be developed in his work in advance. However, it is pointless to give explanations or make judgments on the works [based on those ideas] because, as she is well aware, his intentions are not the same as his final work. Among the images most recurrent in the paintings rendered by Escobar, who was serving time in a U.S. prison, are: the vejigante [folkloric character in Puerto Rican festivals], the guitar, the fish, a blindfolded fish, a dried fish, and a desiccated human being. Husband’s essay attempts to explain the relationship between the future of a colonized island and the restraint of having to paint from prison. Escobar’s ideology, implicit in his work, acknowledges that what is sought in both contexts is to find routes for freedom.
 
Included with the illustrations that accompany the text are numerous quotations from Escobar on the importance of art and color, as well as on the dogma of style. Other quotations address the commercialization of the artist and how an individual can achieve freedom.

Annotations

Elizam Escobar (Ponce, Puerto Rico, born 1948) was arrested on April 4, 1980, accused of being a member of the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña [Armed Forces of Puerto Rican National Liberation] (FALN), a clandestine movement on the island that struggled for Puerto Rican independence, and was sentenced to 68 years in prison. During his prison term, Escobar continued to paint; he also wrote poetry and theoretical essays. On September 10, 1999, he was released from the El Reno federal prison in Oklahoma, whereupon he resumed his life in Puerto Rico. Since his release, he has taught painting at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas [School of Visual Arts]. [That same year,] Escobar organized and published the book, Los ensayos del artificiero: más allá de lo político-directo y el postmodernismo [Essays by the Explosives Expert: Beyond Direct Politics and Postmodernism].

Researcher
Flavia Marichal Lugo
Team
Museo de Historia, Antropología y Arte, Universidad de Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico