The image of the sugarcane cutter has both political, social and iconic implications for me as a Cuban-American artist. As a young boy in Cuba, I would have been drafted at an early age into the military or the sugar cane fields to serve the government.
Sugar, once harvested by slaves into an economic power crop, was Cuba's largest export with plantations owned by ruthless, wealthy families. Brutality, abuse, corruption and starvation was always correlated with farming sugarcane, and many of the recruited sons and fathers never returned home. The style of the painting evokes the propaganda posters of the early years of the Castro regime where working for the government in the cane fields was glorified and promoted in support of the revolution.
My recollections become an artistic allegory of the migrant worker and the painstaking hardships of this enslaving work, thus idolizing the figure. Using techniques to represent deterioration of the paint, the aged gold leaf on the halo and the figure's expressionless face are indicative of the tradition of iconic paintings. The hot red colors represent the tropical heat and the burning fields of hand-harvested sugarcane. The bass relief stalks engulf and surround the field worker, centering him and his steady blade in hand, rising tall.
acrylic paint and plaster
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