It’s not hard to understand why La Virgen de la Caridad, Our Lady of Charity, is the patron saint of Cuba. As legend has it, a statue of her was found floating in the water by three men in a boat 400 years ago, after they had prayed to the virgin to help save them from a storm. In the hundreds of years since then, the island nation would reach out to her, ask her protection, during turbulent times on land and sea. She would be called simply Cachita or Caridad, and her image would pop up everywhere, her powers called on during periods of trial, which would be too often.
So it’s also not hard to understand why a show would be built around contemporary Cuban artists’ expressions of her ubiquitous presence, which is what “Cachita: The Infinite Lightness of Being” is. In it, a wide array of artists depict Cachita – or her influence – in figurative and conceptual ways. According to curator Janet Batet, La Virgen de la Caridad crossed over many divisions and was not solely a religious figure to the Cuban diaspora, surpassing social, ideological and racial differences during difficult times of transition. “The Virgin of Charity quickly emerged to me as a symbol of unity of the sustained endeavor of different generations of Cuban artists that have played a key role in the Cuban contemporary art, and today continue their careers outside the island.”
Those artists include some of our best known: José Bedia, Tomas Sanchez, Consuelo Castaneda, Glexis Novoa, Margarita Cano, along with some newer to the scene such as Carlos Caballero – 18 artists in all. It’s an amazing grouping, incorporating painting, video and conceptual sculpture. How the virgin “appears” in each work is unique, with strong associations both with the past and the current world – she’s drawn floating above the sea, and in a tattoo on the neck.
“Cachita: The Infinite Lightness of Being” runs through March 26 at the Saladrigas Gallery at the Ignatian Center for the Arts, 500 SW 127th Ave., Miami; 786-378-0828.