Estevez’s ‘Reliquary’ shows human side

Posted April 6, 2015


“Reliquary” is a mixed-media solo show of pieces by a Cuban artist by the name of Carlos Estevez that was being shown at Pan American Art Projects in Wynwood.

A reliquary is a container for relics, which may be the purported physical remains of saints, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with saints or other religious figures.

Within this definition, it is clear that when attempting to emulate a reliquary, it is not possible to do so with just a paintbrush.

Estevez used mixed media in order to produce an exhibit that did not leave remains of the religious world, but rather left clues of his spiritual beliefs all located in different types of boxes. These clues allow the viewer to interpret his philosophy, ideas, thoughts and feelings as we see fit.

I attended the exhibition during one of the Wynwood Art Walks with several friends who had never seen work by Estevez. My friends and I do not attend art exhibits often, but we are all artistically inclined and apt to critiquing certain works of art.

The crowd at Art Walk is one that is seemingly interested in art, due to their presence at the event, but I noticed that the visitors do not take much time to view and interpret the art being shown.

The exhibition included 12 different assemblages, which is a format that Estevez has been working with for the past several years, such as in “Hermetic Garden”, which also had boxes which each contained and represented a specific theme.

In “Reliquary,” the nine boxes contained objects that included different textures, sculptures of human heads, random body parts, seahorses, chess pieces, figurines, padlocks with keys hanging from the torso of a porcelain doll, viles, clocks, surgical equipment, scissors and thread, to name a few.

The use of mixed media is something that appeals to me, as paintings and sketches always fall, well flat, for lack of a better word. Inserting his work inside of boxes appealed to the child in me who used to love making and viewing shadow boxes, which were meant to tell a story in the confines of a box.

As confused as I was about certain pieces, I was never put off by them, as each piece was a container or symbol of a memory, dream, or thought that the artist had at one time in his life. I felt privileged to be viewing these pieces, as if they were pages in his diary that I was allowed to read.

Maybe because it was the largest piece in the room, therefor the most eye-catching to me, but “Sempiternal Ballet Rehearsal” was my favorite piece in the exhibit. My favorite part of the piece was not the center, where the dancing, metal ballerinas can be seen but rather the left section of the piece where there are circular shapes made from the use of hundreds of other circular objects which was very visually appealing to me, for reasons which I am still unsure.

Other pieces were much smaller, with the smallest being no larger than a pocket watch, which is ironically titled “Facetime” after the iPhone app, and meant to represent an aspect of their relationship that Estevez holds dear to him.

Using objects brings life to these pieces, imagining them in their former lives, with their previous owners, it combines feelings and stories with the more tangible aspects of our lives. Estevez even goes so far as to use tin soldiers that were among his favorite toys as a child. He had been collecting them for decades before finally using them in his piece “Batallas interiores.”

Estevez was born in Havana in 1969 and he attended the San Alejandro Academy and later the Higher Institute of Art, both in Havana. While he spent a large portion of his life in Cuba, I would not consider his work to reflect that.

PAAP specializes in art of the Americas “with the mission to build a bridge between North and South American cultures by presenting and exhibiting artists from both regions.”

I believe in this case, it is very telling that a man with so much Cuban influence has created work that is not centered fully around his culture, but rather the more human side of artists, the most human aspects of them, their dreams, their fears, their childhood. I think this exhibit demonstrated that the bridge between North and South America is simply that we are all human, just expressing ourselves differently.

  • “Reliquary” by Carlos Estevez
  • Mixed Media Assemblages
  • Exhibit open March 6- April 25, 2015
  • Available at Pan American Arts Projects
  • 2450 NW 2nd St., Miami, Fla. 33127
  • 7.5 out of 10