Schedule of Events
Sat 10/19 - Sun 10/27: #OnePulse #OrlandoStrong window installation at 13FOREST Gallery
Sun 10/27, 4-6 pm: Día de los Muertos - #OnePulse #OrlandoStrong reception with artist Nayda A. Cuevas and events throughout Capitol Square
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a holiday of reverence for one's ancestors that dates back to the Aztec celebration of Mictēcacihuātl, Queen of the Underworld. Though Día de los Muertos originated in Mexico, people across the Americas have adopted and modified the tradition with their own unique cultural contributions. Each October Capitol Square brings Día de los Muertos back into focus with Latinx memory altars, food and activities. For this year's Día de los Muertos festival 13FOREST Gallery is pleased to highlight the work of artist Nayda A. Cuevas, who will install her #OnePulse #OrlandoStrong series of paintings in our window.
#OnePulse #OrlandoStrong is a series of paintings honoring the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Forty-nine primarily Latinx people were killed in what is now recognized as the second deadliest mass shooting in the United States, and the deadliest incidence of violence against LGBTQ+ people in American history. Cuevas completed the series of paintings, one depicting each of the 49 victims individually, during a residency that took place shortly after the shooting. Struggling with her own feelings of dismay and mourning, Cuevas undertook the project as a way to memorialize the people who died in the horrific shooting and to process her emotions. As mass shootings become more frequent and consume more of our collective consciousness, it can be easy to feel numb and to forget victims and their families once a new shooting takes place. Cuevas' portraits bring the identity and humanity of these victims back to the forefront. As a Catholic, Cuevas observes All Souls Day; her window installation at 13FOREST marks this holiday and honors the memory of victims of gun violence.
Beyond paying respect to the people who were killed during the Pulse shooting, Cuevas' series of paintings serves as a larger exploration of portraiture in modern times. Each painting in the series is a recreation of a selfie taken by a victim of the shooting. Cuevas reflects on the meaning of selfies and the effect of taking a digital image and rendering it in a more traditional medium:
Just as the modern artist exploited the portrait’s potential to convey identity, the 21st century selfie trend extends this practice to the common person, the non-artist. Exploring the selfie and its increasing prevalence in our culture led me to realize that there are subthemes within how people examine or present identity such as ethnic, gender, or religious identity. Selfies are an expression of one’s identity, however contrived or imagined it may be. At the same time by engaging in traditional forms of portrait painting —namely, naturalistic representations of people rendered in oil on panel— I seek to challenge how we currently consume images at an alarming rate and volume, without devoting substantial time or energy to sufficiently digest, contemplate, and understand what we see. This condition is created because we now experience the world through digital devices such as cell phones, which provide easy and instant access to imagery from a wide range of sources. Over-reliance on devices is harming our ability to have valuable face-to-face conversations — the most human thing we do — by splitting our attention and diminishing our capacity for empathy.
About the artist
I started making art in order to deal with a sense of alienation and the absence of familiar people and places in my life. At the age of ten, my parents made the decision to move our family from Puerto Rico to Florida. Being relocated at a young age evoked a new sense of self-exploration and need to establish connections with people. Painting the figure became a means to understand people and create connections in my community, while exploring a visual language to better articulate my observations and interpretations of my Latin@ American Experience. It is this identity that guides my work to cultivate awareness of “otherness" in American culture, while raising questions about belonging and feelings of displacement.