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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

DEMI

Miami, FL
United States

Born in Camaguey, Cuba in 1955, DEMI is one of the most critically acclaimed Cuban-American artists working in the United States. She depicts a vibrant and intimate universe centered upon children, but hers is neither a sugar-coated nor an innocent vision. DEMI paints luminous and powerful children whose lives have been exposed to the vagaries of the adult world.

DEMI has first-hand knowledge of the plight of children whose fates are altered by devastating events. Her father was executed in Castro’s Cuba when DEMI was still a child. “I belong to a forgotten group: children of those executed in Cuba for political reasons,” the artist states, “Sons and daughters still too young of age to understand why we were confronted with death, separation and loneliness. My paintings blossom from the inner depths of those childhood memories.”

DEMI deliberately employs a naive style and paints mainly children. Although rooted in her personal history, these subjects are fanciful and universal, with powerful social and political overtones.

Her painting “Black Angel” has recently been included in the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum Art collection and since 1998 the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art has been collecting DEMI’s primary records (correspondence, notebooks, drawings, photographs, catalogues). DEMI’s works are featured in many public and private collections worldwide and have been widely exhibited in Galleries and Museums, including Switzerland, France, Panama, Puerto Rico and the United States.

Feminist Artist Statement

My paintings blossom from the inner depth of my childhood memories, and my chosen subject has always been the representation of children. My childhood experience has helped me to see the fragile nature of the individual, our existence at the mercy of natural and historical forces.While the painful experience of exile has defined me, it has also been a liberating experience, a blessing in disguise, because it has allowed me for better or for worse to view life as an “eternal outsider,” to have a certain distance with the cultures and societies that surround me. I have always been in search not for analytical accuracy, but for emotional truth.

I employ in my paintings a variety of pictorial metaphors to disclose experiences I want to convey, like isolation and disconnection. I combine ideas from popular culture with imagery culled from the canon of Western European art. I create richly worked decorative surfaces with patterns of line, dots, swirling movements, “puntillismo” and flowers in order to create a sense of anxiety and rhythmic energy.

<p>Girl with Laika</p>

Girl with Laika

“Girl with Laika” is a painting describing a completely nude girl accompanied by a dog called Laika. Far beyond on the sky you see the planet Earth, suggesting that the girl and the dog are on a different planet. It might be the moon or some other planet. The painting makes reference to an event that happened in November 3, 1957, where a dog named Laika was sent in orbit on Sputnick II. Here, the artist uses the event to indicate her desire of “stopping the world and get out.”

Girl with Laika

“Girl with Laika” is a painting describing a completely nude girl accompanied by a dog called Laika. Far beyond on the sky you see the planet Earth, suggesting that the girl and the dog are on a different planet. It might be the moon or some other planet. The painting makes reference to an event that happened in November 3, 1957, where a dog named Laika was sent in orbit on Sputnick II. Here, the artist uses the event to indicate her desire of “stopping the world and get out.”

Searching For The Light

“Searching For The Light” is a painting of girls fighting to find the light, which emanates from a lamp resembling an eye. The light is symbolic of several words, like Truth, Answers, etc.

Their elaborated and heavy textured dresses and multiple layers of transparencies, are like an “armature” to protect them. Everything is painted and done in a poetic way, always preserving the mysteries that it all implies. Balletic movement brings the theme of the search to a more explicit statement, where the dancer in red in the foreground looks up at the black light in the center as the positive defiance of the negative.

Tabula Rasa

In “Tabula Rasa” the theme of light in the midst of darkness is explored as the central shining figure glows in the foreground surrounded by light-bringing doves. The swooping forms of the doves create a vortex around the central figure of the child who looks at the spectator without fear because the darkness cannot overcome the figures of light. “Tabula Rasa,” means the clean table or new beginning, and in this painting, it seems clear that when the doves settle and the darkness goes, a new and transformed world will take the place of the brooding darkness that will be no more.

Who is Afraid Of The Big, Black Bear

A group children stand gazing at a stuffed panda which is as large or ever larger than the gathered youth. The ear is reminiscent of one of Goya’s creatures, such as the “bobalicon,” who scares children into submission. But the children look at the bear with an air of ironic amusement: the boy studies the bear with pursed lips and the tall girl analyzes him, while two other children look at the spectator with amused expressions as if asking, “isn’t this a funny game?”.

Here I play with the ink-blacks of the bear and the background as these are offset by the bright lights of the pink roses and white garments of the children. These are worn as though they were shields against the dark. Employing color and light, I present to the viewer with children so strong that even the “bogey-bear” does not faze them.

Girl With Butterflies

“Girl With Butterflies” stands as another statement of the powerful ability that light and color have to create happiness. The surface of this painting presents the spectator with myriad kaleidoscopic forms that seem to transform and move as color keys into whirling patterns, manifesting the girl’s status as a beacon of light. This girl’s expression is quietly confident and in harmonious juxtaposition to the excitement generated by the forms that are indicative of the artist’s life.

Indians and Cowboys

Here I stage a make-believe game in which a uniformed child point guns at another child, who although the same size, seems to be more innocent, as indicated by his pacifiers. The unbalanced stance of this “Indian” makes him appear more vulnerable. It is a painting dedicated to my father, who was executed in Cuba.

Black Little Angel

This painting depicts an icon of innocence surrounded by the infinite possibilities of the color white. The child also evokes the salvific qualities of the child Jesus and also the African identity of much of Caribbean culture, in which I, a Cuban, was born in.

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1679 SW 16th Street
Miami, FL 33145
United States

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