Summer Artist Residency in Havana, Cuba!

Good news this morning: my summer artist residency application in Havana, Cuba was ✨ACCEPTED✨! I will be spending the first half of July working on a photo project that has been simmering on the back burners of my mind for the last 3 years since my mother passed. I want to develop a series of photographs and text for a photo book about identity, place, and loss and I’m looking forward to immersing myself in work and the motherland.

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Performance: Tanya Aguiñiga, Metabolizing the Border, January 2020

Here are the photos I shot for Tanya Aguiñiga’s performance, Metabolizing the Border, January 2020, at the Otay, CA/Tijuana, Mexico border.

Tanya’s solo exhibition ‘Borderlands Within’ just opened at Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena and runs through August of 2020. Come check out the exhibit, which includes these photos I took of her performance. For 1.5 hours, Tanya walked back and forth along the US-Mexico border wall wearing the glass suit.

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ONE FREE WEDDING IN 2020 TO THE CHILD OF AN IMMIGRANT!

Images above: All taken in Havana, Cuba — 1. My grandmother (right) sits with my great aunt (left), with my mother on her lap, 2. my mother as a little girl, posed on a coffee table, 3. my grandfather, “Francisco” Lee.

I am offering free photography for one wedding to a person in a couple (or both) who was the child of an immigrant. The immigrant story is integral to my identity and I want to do my part to give back and honor that community, especially during such a divisive time in American history. My mother came to this country from Cuba in the 1970s with only a suitcase and the wish for a better tomorrow. Without a doubt, I am here today because of her dreams and determination. Everyday I think about the long journey that my mother took to leave the only home she knew and build a new life which ultimately gave me the privilege and opportunities I have now. I know she would be proud (rest in peace) if she knew that her daughter went on to own and operate her own business which aligns with her ideals, while also doing what she loves most: photography.

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Cuban Heroes (I wish I’d known as a girl): Ana Mendieta

Above image: Ana Mendieta, Film stills, Sweating Blood, 1973

Starting in July, my birth month, I will be doing a bi-monthly research exercise on “Cuban Heroes” for my blog. I believe that seeing yourself reflected in the world around you (in pop culture and beyond) is powerful, and I was starved of that privilege as a young girl navigating the white-centric suburbs of Orange County.

A bit of an introduction before beginning My mother immigrated from Cuba in the 1970s and married my father, a red headed Irish-American from Southern California. Growing up, my contact with my father’s side of the family was rare if ever, so I made sense of “family” through the connection I had to my mother’s side: my Cuban Grandmother and her sisters (my Great Aunts). I truly believe that I understand what Love is today through the love I received from the gaggle of Cuban women who raised me as a child. Looking back, when I think of “home”, I think of them, and feel them deeply in my core still. So with all that said  why is it that when I was sorting through the building blocks of my identity and searching for role models, that I looked past them and only found value and importance in white-stories by straight-white-men within the framework of white-society? In short, it is because I was a child of an immigrant, and cultural assimilation was key to my social survival. When I looked around me, those were the narratives that society held up and gave the most worth and I followed that way of thinking without ever examining why (that would come decades later). As a child and young adult, I took these adopted narratives and hid in plain sight. My fair-skin and culturally-ambiguous looks afforded me that. I thought by doing this, I was pushing myself out of the ethnic minority and giving myself a “fair chance”, a belief that is complex, problematic, and reinforced time and time again in my life.

After my mother’s passing 2 years ago, I spiraled into grief. Grieving her, and the loss of “the last” of my Cuban identity slipping through my fingers and into the ether. Never again would I feel and hear the energy and sounds of her hard Cuban-Spanish accenting my life. The audible sounds of love through language, calling for me as, “Ginita”. I think after the death of any parent, it is quite normal to question existence and ask questions of “why”, and that definitely came for me in full force and is something I still reconcile today. So — this is to honor my Mother, this is for my Grandmother and Great Aunts, but mostly this is for the little girl who needed an extra push in understanding her roots, her place and their natural value, and in turn, her natural value.

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