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Puerto Rican Art Class

Artist of the Month

featuring Puerto Rican art

on Puerto Rican Art


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Nellie Escalante-Dumberger
ArteBoricua Editor

Born and raised in the Bronx by Puerto Rican parents, Nellie has a Bachelors in Art History and Latin American Studies, and a Masters in Cultural Anthropology.

She worked at El Museo del Barrio for a total of six years researching and curating exhibitions dealing with Puerto Rican and other Latin American art, writing content for wall signage and catalogs, and giving tours of the museum's collection. She also prepared bibliographies and artist biographies for books, and published several articles dealing with Puerto Rican/Latino art. Recently, Nellie worked at the Visual Arts Library at the School of Visual Arts where she was responsible for the acquisition of the library's book, video and CD-ROM collection. She also assisted faculty and students in their art research, wrote a column reviewing art and culture books and helped develop the library's Latin American art and culture section.

As well as writing her Arte Boricua monthly column for EL BORICUA, Nellie is also a Museum Educator at the American Museum of the Moving Image and teaches a Puerto Rican art history course at CUNY on the Concourse (a branch of Lehman college) in the Bronx. Nellie is available for lectures/courses on Puerto Rican/Latino art in the New York area.

Your comments/suggestions for this page are greatly welcomed.Please e-mail Nellie at

Puerto Rican Art Class
at CUNY on the Concourse
Bronx, New

Taught by me, this course aims to give an overview of the artistic history of Puerto Ricans, on the island and in the U.S., from that of the early Taino natives through the modern day. Topics covered include: Taino art; folk art; the graphics and socio-political art of the 1950s; abstract vs. figurative painting of the 1960s and 70s; sculpture, installation art, photography and film. Also covered will be the relationship between island artists and second-generation Puerto Ricans on the mainland. Art will be seen via slide presentations.

Comfortable, relaxed environment! Great class for educators, artists, parents, seniors, youth, members of the community, and anyone else who would like to know more about Puerto Rican visual art!


For registration information, contact:
The City University of New York
2501 Grand Concourse
Bronx NY 10468
(718) 960-6900, fax: (718) 960-4686

For more information on the class e-mail me at


Artist of the Month

Elizabeth Baez

Elizabeth Baez allows the viewer to see glimpses of her private and public worlds through her art. Her spiritual, intimate portrayals of women as well as depictions of family life take you into her private individual persona. Her paintings of landscapes, musical instruments and plena dancers show us her pride in her Puerto Rican culture, a more public identity. Her Puerto Rican heritage even makes its presence known as she playfully alters a work by a British artist.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, of Puerto Rican parents, Elizabeth Baez later moved to Puerto Rico as a young girl. "At that time, I felt like I was introduced to real color," she says, "living in New York can be gray at times, with all the tall buildings, so when I saw all that color! bright green everywhere…when the sunlight hits that rich lush tropical landscape- now that is real color." She currently lives in Miami, Florida, a place also filled with bright sunlight and lots of bright greens.


Exhibitions featuring Puerto Rican art

MoMA at El Museo: Latin American and Caribbean Art from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art
El Museo del Barrio, New York
March 5 - July 25, 2004

The Museum of Modern Art and El Museo del Barrio, both of New York, have jointly organized the first exhibition highlighting MoMA's outstanding collection of Latin American and Caribbean art. MoMA at El Museo presents a selection of more than 100 paintings, sculptures and works on paper created between the 1920s and 2002. The exhibition is organized chronologically, reflecting the history of acquisitions and donations, as well as the shifting politics that influenced collecting. Four Puerto Rican artists are represented in the exhibition.

Initial, major acquisitions of Latin American art began in 1935. Works by "Los tres grandes", Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, as well as Candido Portinari, and Wifredo Lam were purchased at this time.

The second section surveys acquisitions after 1942, when the Inter-American fund was established. Important paintings by well-known modernists, such as Frida Kahlo, Rufino Tamayo, and Joaquín Torres-García were incorporated.

The third portion focuses on the 1960s, when acquisitions of drawings, print portfolios, and Pop and Op art works markedly increased. The work of Puerto Rican artist Rafael Montañez-Ortiz was acquired at this time along with works by Fernando Botero, Julio Le Parc, Marisol, and Jesús Rafael Soto.

The exhibition concludes with a compelling range of recent works, created by outstanding contemporary artists. The Puerto Rican artists among this group include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Juan Sánchez, and Felix González-Torres (born in Cuba but sent to Puerto Rico to live as a teenager where he attended the University of Puerto Rico).
For more information go to


El Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
Santurce, P.R.
March 2001-Present

The development of Puerto Rican art from the colonial period to the present. Painting, drawing, graphics, photography, sculpture, santos and ceramics are included in this exhibition, which is divided in two parts. The first one, inaugurated in January 26, is a chronological description of the development of Puerto Rican art from the seventeenth century to the nineteen seventies. The second part, inaugurated in March 2001, presents the works of art of the last forty years of the twentieth century.

For more information go to

If you know of an exhibition featuring Puerto Rican art, please e-mail me at



Focus on Arte Boricua Books

Puerto Rican Painting: Between Past and Present, 1987. Published by The Squibb Gallery, Princeton New Jersey, 128 pages.

This is the catalogue that accompanied the traveling exhibition bearing the same title. It is an important publication in Puerto Rican art because the exhibition was the first comprehensive, historical review of art by Puerto Rican painters to be shown in the United States. The Squibb Gallery and Squibb Corporation underwrote the cost of the exhibition which traveled to various museums including El Museo del Barrio in New York.

The book contains a thirty-three page comprehensive essay by curator of the exhibition, Mari Carmen Ramirez. In the essay, she discusses the development of Puerto Rican painting from the 19th century to the 1980s. Also included is a Puerto Rican art bibliography, thirty-five artist biographies, ten color images and thirty-five black and white images.

Although the book only goes up to the eighties, it is a good publication to start with if you are in the beginning stages in your quest for knowledge of Puerto Rican art. This out- of-print book is available through or

Shout Out, 2003. Published by Pepatián, $12.00

Shout Out is a small publication, 52 pages, full of big emotion and wonderful creative, raw talent. The book consists of poems by five young Bronx literary artists; Caridad de La Luz (La Bruja), John Rodríguez, Anita García (Rokafella), Jessica Roman, and Victoria Sammartino. All are Puerto Rican except for Victoria. Photos by Puerto Rican photographer, Marisol Díaz are dispersed between poems. If you prefer listening to reading, Shout Out also includes a CD which consists of the poets reading their work in their own unique style.

I really enjoyed reading the poems in Shout Out. They give you a glimpse into the worlds of young people living in the Bronx, or any urban environment. John Rodriguez pays homage to Spiderman, the most street superhero I know, in his poem, Spidermanizm,

Dedicated to my first hero
who taught me that with great power comes great responsibility …
and who showed me that
when you get to the end of your rope
the least you can do is swing, baby.

Caridad de la Luz's ode to women everywhere is empowering and lyrically enchanting,

I see a temple in your eyes
With the doors open wide

To all the prayers, psalms
And poetry inside…

Marisol Diaz's beautiful, untitled photos of Bronx scenes illustrate the poems wonderfully making it a successful combination of word and art. Although the rich photography only made me wish the publication was twice as big, the viewer is able to capture Marisol's vision of her urban paradise. As for the photos not having titles, it's fine, the poems speak volumes about them.

A documentary photographer, Marisol is the event photographer for many Bronx organizations. Currently she works at the non-profit organization En Foco, Inc. and teaches at the Bronx International School.

For a copy of the book, please e-mail Jane Gabriels, Managing Director of Pepatián at

If you have a book that features Puerto Rican art which you would like me to review, please e-mail me at