Migrations

The following narrative should be read alongside Tatiana Garmendia’s artist portfolio Migrations.

The doilies function as surrogates for the domestic domain. Their fragility contrasts starkly with brutal memories of the night the G2 Cuban secret police took my father away for a two-year interrogation. Mounted on drone footage from a random suburban Washington neighborhood, they point to the intrusion of state surveillance upon citizens, questioning if there is safety and peace anywhere.

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Each handkerchief bears the portrait of a Jose in my family, along with the text to personal letters written to them. Cutting and pulling on horizontal threads to partially distress each, I physically eroded the textiles, illustrating the dissolution of intergenerational ties when a member of the family is forcibly removed by the state.

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Beforehand/Afterwards II documents a performance in honor of my father, who was detained and tortured by the G-2 in Cuba. He died at 36 years old. Many of the techniques used against him by the Castro regime are now used by the US government in Guantanamo. Over the course of a month I embroidered a list of these torture techniques on a standard military blanket and wrapped myself in it as an offering of warmth to my father’s memory and the bits of his DNA in me. The embroidered blanket drapes an empty chair and serves as a surrogate for the missing figure, bringing his absence into the viewer’s space.

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This series embraces the fluid space between the past and the present, between a homeland lost and a homeland gained. Here each wave meets at my heart with a gesture of embrace. The translucency of the polyester film points to a space between actual and conceptual representations. The viewer can see the recycled wood stretchers, sometimes the wire, and construct in their minds how the image comes to be. Viewing becomes a surrogate to the creative act.

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Water has so many states…it can be solid, fluid, or vapor. Like our memories. Some are so concrete they are heavy like a glacier, others vanish like so much mist in a breeze. In this self portrait I wanted to capture the feeling of memories washing over me.

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An empty glass and uprooted plants become stand-ins for the gaps in cultural agency experienced by outsiders, like immigrants, occupying the peripheries of society.

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Flags and notions of nationhood are both abstract and very real, but both are easily distorted. I used a funhouse mirror to alter perceptions of the flagged still life.

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I love the diversity of peoples in this my new homeland. Whatever frictions exist between cultures and races, most of the time we live, learn, and grow stronger together. To me this is still the land of possibility and optimism, which is why I employed the primary triad in the color scheme.

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As a refugee, I see my identity occupying a reflective space between two cultures. I meditate regularly on a mercury glass skull, and here reflect on all those who have braved the seas in search of freedom but have drowned instead. Over 70,000 Cubans have drowned crossing the waters to the US.

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I meditate regularly on a mercury glass skull. Here I reflect on all those who have braved the seas in search of freedom but have drowned instead.

 

Tatiana Garmendia is a professor of fine arts at Seattle Central College. She has exhibited her work throughout the US, and abroad in Mexico, Italy, Germany, England, and India. Her works are in public collections in Seattle, New York, Washington D.C., Miami, Illinois, California, Ohio, and the Dominican Republic. Synthesizing formal concerns and a humanist engagement with history and culture, the artist’s interdisciplinary work occupies fluid boundaries. Born in Cuba at the height of the Cold War and immigrating to the USA as a youth, the artist’s practice deciphers myths, histories, languages, and tropes from different communal fonts.