Photography has been a vehicle for me to return to my country after many years of living in exile. There are so many negatives by now that I do need to get away from all my other obligations (I am also a painter) and start assembling them. I feel that a month of intense printing and exchange will be magnificence....' This passage, from Cuban born American Nereyda Garcia Ferraz's letter of application to the Artist-in-Residence program at Light Work, matches in expression the direct and elegant appeal of her photographs of Cuba.
During her residency in February 1988, Garcia added to the body of her Cuban work that centers on classical colonial architecture, landscapes and portraits of friends and strangers caught up in the celebration of daily life. A specifically personal group of images and an ongoing concern is expressed in photographs of the house and social life of her grandmother. Garcia left Havana Province with her family in 1969 when she was fifteen. Her photographs, more than ten years later, record the safekeeping of mother country without withering sentimentality or revolutionary heroics. Her affection and emotional connection are poised in the ample plazas, noble arches and intricate grillwork, the silence of high noon and communication of life stories in the lines of singing, talking, or remembering.
The thread that weaves a common banner through her work is her desire to celebrate and pay homage to the role that culture plays in preserving tradition. During her residency, Garcia also worked on a series of paintings and drawings. While her black-and-white photographs pay respect to the formative influence on her social and intellectual life, the vivid and hot colored paintings and drawings combine elements of nature to recreate a more primitive mythology. Her work in both mediums share a lyric quality that transports the heart, like music, to emotional home.
Garcia also presented, Fuego De Tierra (Fire of Earth), a video documentary about the life and work of her friend, the late Cuban American artist and environmental sculptor, Ana Mendieta. Co-directed with Kate Horsfield, the tape traces Mendieta's life through interviews, family photographs and films of Mendieta's ephemeral artworks and installations. Presented as a 'tertulia' to the Syracuse University student group, La Casa Latino Americana, Nereyda Garcia renewed her identification to the spirit of Cuba, her culture and people.
Nereyda Garcia is a traveling artist who keeps an apartment in Chicago.
Gina Murtagh (c)1988