Puerto Rican visual artists slated for art residency in Finland

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[Many thanks to Teo Freytes for bringing this item to our attention.] In “Artistas boricuas logran residencia en Finlandia,” Jorge Rodríguez (El Vocero) writes about six Puerto Rican visual artists who were chosen to participate in a research-based art residency in Finland [The Saari Residence group residency 2021, sponsored by the Kone Foundation]. As Rodríguez points out, they were selected from a pool of more than 600 candidates from around the globe for this research initiative.

Six artists, researchers and curators will participate in an installation residency in Finland, developed by the Kone Foundation, and organized around the theme “On Corruption and Healing,” which [in the case of the specific artists] will deal with the ravages caused in Puerto Rico by climate change and how artists still continued to create and seek outlets to help others. The four groups chosen, including the team from Puerto Rico, were selected from more than 600 candidates around the world.

The participating artists and curators are part of the groups San Juan RIPSJU and Pitirre Proyectos. The installation will also be extended to the myymala2 cultural space in Helsinki, with a piece by Walter Fernández, curated by Tim Tuhkamnen. The group of installers comprises Lilliam Nieves, Dianne Brás Feliciano, Gretchen Ruiz, Walter Fernández, and Pedro Vélez.

“In Finland they have a mansion and vast grounds as a global residency for which they accepted four groups worldwide, giving importance to ethnic diversity. We were accepted as members—Lilliam (Nieves), Diane (Brás) as an independent curator and historian; Gretchen (Ruiz) as a photographer and researcher; and me, with a painting project and wall murals—working as a team on a giant installation. In the case of Gretchen, as a water and landscape photographer, her specific subject has to do with memory and in Finland, she will complete that idea. We’ll go there, but they are coming here too,” explained Vélez in an interview with EL VOCERO.

Vélez’s work addresses emotions and feelings found in vivid tragedies locally, in a biographical style, using, for example, torn curtains. Nieves on the other hand, will work with her body and how it is assessed through racial elements. Brás is in charge of the descriptive essay of the work and the conceptualization of the project, while Fernández brings the idea of ​​‘the exotic’ and how to try to turn tobacco into a local industry.

“This is a research residency, in relation to working in Finland coming from a country also invaded by corruption. The article that gives the title to the exhibition, which was published in Public Art Review, is about public art and the devastation caused by hurricanes, earthquakes, and Covid-19, facing the abandonment by the government experienced by Puerto Rican artists. After all the debacles we’ve been through, they paid us quite well and we invested it in Gretchen’s Pitirre Project to bring basic tools and solar-powred lamps to Cubuy, Cayey, Utuado, and other places that were in great need,” added the artist.

With irony, this visual artist states that the [art] sector has never been a statistical number for the government and that the little money obtained to support itself comes from outside [the island]. [. . .]

Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For the full, original article (in Spanish), see https://www.elvocero.com/escenario/artistas-boricuas-logran-residencia-en-finlandia/article_b5d12d78-b662-11ea-a462-275a414618be.html

[Above: Pedro Vélez’s “El peso del mundo” (The Weight of the World).]

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