1. Fango de Casa
In my studio, there is a sense of spirituality. I can smell the dust of soil from Puerto Rico. It is in my eyes, in my hair, I can taste the dirt. It reminded me about a time when I was around nine years old and was mixing water, sugar, and dirt. I created a sweet drink of soil. I drank quite a lot of it. I even gave my best friend some of it, his mother caught us drinking it, and she didn't like it.
My studio reminds me of working the land with my father. My dad had a palm tree farm, and we would continuously transplant palm trees from one place to another. It involved heavy working of the land. I hated it, but now I want to go back to that in a different way.
Two Apple Banana plants that initially came in one of the packages. My mother supplied the shoots from her backyard. They grew in my studio and became my company. One of them was dying due to excess water, I decided to cut it, and the next day it started growing again. I'm sure they liked my studio window and the dirt dust that was everywhere.
I made a Pigment of soil from Rincon, Puerto Rico. The clay quality of this soil was somewhat surprising, which promoted a sense of urgency to explore dirt as a material. I'm looking for instances in which curiosity invites certain aspects of the landscape, to become mediums for self-expression—Color, texture, materiality.
Many times I thought about abandoning the idea of dirt as a material, I felt like the work was not getting anywhere. The dirt was resisting my experiments; I became obsessed and kept trying to mold it, configuring its original state. I was looking for ways to make it more usable in a commercial setting. At which point, I began to think about the connections of how Puerto Rican identity goes through a similar process of modification throughout American assimilation.
The soil was heated and sterilized, eliminating all the healthy bacteria so that it could be adequate in a gallery setting. I drove myself insane for days thinking it was merely a dead end. I didn't believe in the material I didn't let it be.
Fango de Casa
40 in x 32 in
Dirt, Acrylic Polymer, Drafting Film
I cover sheets of polyester drafting film with self-leveling acrylic polymer and sprinkled soil over it, letting it solidify into what looks like a large, translucent sheet of dirt. During the process of drying, the acrylic polymer creates what looks like creases. There isn't a way to control the ridges. They happen naturally as the material contracts when the dirt absorbs the water from the gel.
To me, the uncontrolled process of the material resembles current challenges in Puerto Rico with natural disasters. The recent earthquakes left many creases around the island, which caused houses and public schools to crumble and be unusable. There is a resistance to the material in which it defies my process. The dirt doesn't seem to want to cooperate with the binder, and the result is what appears like fragile work.
But in reality, they are malleable, flexible, they take different shapes and could adapt to different installation challenges. They are like a form of resilient tiles of dirt. They are leaving a trace of individuality as bits of excess soil fall from the sheets.