Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

In this lecture at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Puerto Rican-born artist Bibiana Suarez presents an overview of her work and considers the role of race and ethnicity in her art. She begins the lecture by explaining her ethnic background and the early experiences that informed her artwork. Suarez gives specific examples of how she utilizes her art to investigate the convergence of race, politics, and cultures, as in her work Y tu aguela a’onde ehtá? [Where Is Your Grandma?] (1991), based on a 1942 poem by Puerto Rican author Fortunato Vizcarrondo. The artist also speaks of her drawing phase (1981–1993) and on works made at that time, such as Juracán. Many of her subsequent works were politically inspired installations. Rio de Agua Viva and Zafra were both conceived after frustrated attempts to hold a plebiscite in her native Puerto Rico, which would have given islanders the opportunity to choose their political status. In other works such as De Pico a Pico [Beak to Beak/Face to Face], Dominó [Dominoes], and Mano y Onda [Slingshot], Suarez explores the trope of “games” as a way of analyzing not only popular Puerto Rican games but also the intercultural encounters that take place between them (and other Latinos) and U.S. mainstream culture. Lastly, the artist mentions to move away from specific references to Puerto Rico in order to expand her lines of inquiry to the experiences of all Latinos in the U.S. 

Annotations

Bibiana Suárez presented her essay “Bibiana Suárez: Image and Play as a Strategy for Latina/o Agency” on April 13, 2006, at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

The Puerto Rican-born artist Bibiana Suarez has lived in Chicago since 1980, where she received a BFA and MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has exhibited widely in the United States and Puerto Rico and has written about bicultural identity, the politics of the colonial relationship of the United States and Puerto Rico, and contemporary art.

Researcher
Victor Alejandro Sorell, Gabrielle Toth; Harper Montgomery, Marcela Guerrero, collaborators
Team
Institute for Latino Studies, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, USA
Credit
Courtesy of the private archives of Bibiana Suaréz, Chicago, IL