My intention is to create an installation that functions as a conversation between my late father and myself, one that examines the relationship between identity and immigration, loneliness and solitude, and grief and generational healing. By adapting or appropriating archival images, re-staging my father's paintings and journals, and creating altogether new scenes, I will trace an indirect history (of the depiction) of generations of men of color.
The installation is composed of these artifacts, a playlist, and a series of new works combining cyanotypes, silver gelatin photographs, and image transfers in conversation with them and their creator. This installation serves as the retrospective of a Colombian-born artist, and a blue collar naturalized American that who emmigrated to New York in the 60s and resided in Miami until passing.

  *working installation*

Bird on The Wire, an Informal Eulogy


“José M. Cortes (1945-2021) was born in Bogota Colombia, emigrating to New York at 18 as a self-taught artist.  He spent his entire life painting, drawing, photographing, reading, studying the masters, dreaming, and romanticizing. Jose Cortes painted portraits of people who inspired him, portraits of people who commissioned him, and the portraits of strangers that he would curiously offer to paint. Along with portraits he also painted the landscapes of environments he had lived in throughout his life. Jose was never accepted by institutions and had no formal degree in art, but he kept a disciplined artist practice. Not having the formal language for a contemporary art setting, his work was never exhibited. He was employed as an airplane mechanic until retirement and a car mechanic until his last breath.  In his late 60s, José suffered a stroke, leaving his dominant right hand impaired with limited mobility, this led him to re-teach himself to paint and write with his left hand. After living and working in Miami for almost 40 years, José passed away in his home-studio at 76 years.”

Throughout the last year, it has become part of my practice to archive my father's paintings and journals. These artifacts are extensions of his vulnerability and the spaces where he existed during his phases of isolation. The accompanying journal entries, and other artifacts to these paintings detail his plans for creative execution and the emotions that surfaced from being on a path that he walked alone. This has created a meditative conversation, seeing him not as my father- but as an artist in the purest form and as a beautiful brown man in a world that taught generations of men of color that they are not beautiful, that they need to be strong through repression, passive through discrimination, dominating in a structure that never allows vulnerability.

Scroll below for selected samples of my father’s oil paintings:
1. Kiki (I),
2005-06, 29.5” x 23.5”

2. Retrato de Gabriel Garcia Marquez,
2018-21, 29.5” x 23.5”

3.La última Cena,
2000’s, 22.5” x 28.5”

4. La Candelaria (1),
2017-2019, 19.5” x 25”

5. La Candelaria (2),
2017-2021, painted with left hand, 24”x18”


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