Los Cruces: Converging Identities in Puerto Rican Art
Since 2015, Johnnie Love, Collections Strategist Librarian, has been developing a biographical bibliography, Artists of Color in the Americas Database (ACAD), utilizing Art Library reference and general resource materials. Graduate students of Professor Abigail McEwen’s class: ARTH768C: Cuban Art after 1959, were engaged in a project this spring semester that not only had them exploring the art and culture of Puerto Rico but extending the learning activities to the development of an exhibit in collaboration with the Art Library. Students completed their research and opened the exhibit, April 4, 2018. Six artists from the Spanish Colonial Period, Early Twentieth Century and Contemporary eras were selected. Ramon Frade (1875-1954), Miguel Pou de Becerra (1880-1968), Isabel Bernal (b. 1935), Myrna Baez (b.1932), Pepon Osorio (b. 1955) and Bibiana Suarez (b. 1960).
In addition, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, (1874-1938), one of the great African American bibliophiles, is also included in this exhibit. He was of German and African descent, and an immigrant from Puerto Rico to the United States. His contributions greatly impact how libraries collect, organize and curate resources for special collections. When Schomburg was in the fifth grade he was heavily influenced by one of his white teachers who told him that since he was of African descent, he had no culture nor heritage. This prejudiced comment motivated him to a lifetime of collecting resources to prove the inaccuracy of this statement. Schomburg’s collection included more than 5,000 books, 3,000 manuscripts, 2000 etchings and paintings, and several thousand pamphlets, was purchased by the New York Public Library at a fraction of the value of the collection. This collection now serves as the greatest resource for research of the African diaspora.
Puerto Rican visual art stands as one of the most significant defining expressions of the island’s culture. The unique characteristics and accents of Puerto Rican art offer insight into a highly complex society which can be viewed from a range of political, social and economic perspectives. The island’s artists, who serve as both witnesses and active participants use art to express their own vision of reality and to communicate and explore the very essence of their being.
There is no better way to learn about the people than through exploration of their art and study of their culture. Los Cruces: Converging Identities in Puerto Rican Art demonstrates our support for fellow American citizens as they are struggling to survive after Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico in September 2017. The people are still living with the after effects of the storm to this very day. The exhibit also serves as a tribute to the US territory of Puerto Rico since 1898 and the artists has engendered.
The research completed by the students will be incorporated into the Latin/Hispanic portion of database. ACAD is a comprehensive digital humanities project that is designed to provide reference sources and other forms of information on artists of African American, Native American, Hispanic and Latino American, and Africans of the Caribbean, who have made significant contributions to their mediums and have enhanced the world of art.
Johnnieque Love, Michael Molyneaux-Francis, Laura Brady, Sarah Frances Evans, Vianna Newman, Melanie Nguyen, Patricia Ortega-Miranda, Genevieve Stegner-Freitag, and Lillian Wies.