Signed, dated, and inscribed, in graphite, on reverse, bottom edge: 2/15 Havana, Cuba 1994 Janis Lewin
In 1994, responding to mounting public pressure, Fidel Castro temporarily lifted the ban on travel from Cuba, and the largest number of people since 1980 left the island. Facing an arduous journey in hopes of radical change, these Cuban rafters, or balseros, become pilgrims. Moving from home to the unknown, they sought total transformation of their circumstances.
Janis Lewin’s photographs capture powerful scenes of the rafters’ departures. Images of migrants moving rafts through the streets convey excitement and urgency through the swells of people and the tension of the bodies. In Raft Lowering, we find a man looking back at us, his expression filled with hope, joy, and anticipation. Rafters Goodbye, however, shows the bittersweet nature of the departure and the anxieties associated with the trip. Setting out meant staking their lives on the hope of reaching the United States, with the understanding that a return to Cuba would be improbable.
From the 2022 exhibition A Space for Dialogue 108, Journeys Beyond: Faces and Forms of Pilgrimage, curated by Emily Charland '19, Erbe Intern
COLT 10.21, Coming to America, Gerd Gemunden, Spring 2019
A Space for Dialogue 108, Journeys Beyond: Faces and Forms of Pilgrimage, Alvin P. Gutman Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover New Hampshire, August 27 - October 22, 2022.
Big Town Gallery, Rochester, Vermont; sold to present collection, 2017.
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