2012 ArtPrize Entry
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While spending the 2011-2012 school year volunteer teaching in the Dominican Republic, I gathered artifacts that make up the landscape of the island of Hispaniola. These treasures consist of both natural and man-made materials A setting that fuses garbage and nature: uniting seeds with glass, rusted metal with rocks, and bottle caps with shells. I combined these elements to create 24 frames for the portraits of my friends from Haiti and the Dominican Republic and paired them with my journal entries.

Journal #1 Oct. 15, 2011 Looking at my belongings lined up in bus tubs. Standing barefoot in a transparent case. Ears pop and the guy next to me hums when he chews. I am a mouse in a maze then stopping, and waiting…still waiting. Journal #2 Oct. 22, 2011 Reunited and remembering the heat with sticky hugs. Stories unfold with new friends like opening a present. Met a lady named Oro, but I call her Azucar. Unpacked, too much toothpaste, but no lotion. Journal #3 Oct. 29, 2011 Awakened by a rooster and a breeze from the lagoon. Forgot how beautiful I was, until the moto men reminded me. Bought two eggs, a plantain, a roll of toilet paper from the colmado. The ceiling fan clicks above me like a metronome. Journal #4 Nov. 5, 2011 Washed some clothes in a tub and hung them on the line to dry. Ate my rice and beans on the cement steps. My street dog waits patiently for his share. On a lower setting, the ceiling fan says wooono. Journal #5 Nov. 12, 2011 Went to a batay; happy word for a horrible place to live. Max knawed on my chin. He’s cutting a new tooth Set up a Christmas tree, little hands stay in line and gently tap the ornaments Saw a pink sunset at the beach then carried the sand back between my toes. Journal #6 Nov. 19, 2011 Rode in the van to Libertad to see the Montessori school. Sitting in a circle, teachers talking sweetly, wide-eyed children learning. Outside washing hands, snack from a bowl, sitting on a half buried tire. Batata, berenjena & guava for dinner in the stony backyard. Journal #7 Nov. 26, 2011 Picking up garbage wherever I go; bottle caps, ceramic tile, glass. Nobody sells can openers; I’ll keep using a knife. Stopped to kiss Nina then sat and read to her on her porch. My ten minute walk home took me an hour. Journal # 8 Dec. 3, 2011 A salamander clings to my wall and freezes when I move. Rufino sells me an avocado and gives me a kiss. Each time he tries for my lips, I twist my neck and he gets my cheek. When it’s dark, mosquitoes like my ankles. Journal #9 Dec. 10, 2011 I wave my hand for a cheap ride on the guagua. One more rider makes a baker’s dozen, cooking in the van. Sitting between machete man and a grandma with a bag of oranges. Stopped at Playa Grande and found a forgotten blue boat. Journal # 10 Dec. 17, 2011 The car ride was an intense video game. Winding roads lined with palm trees and prehistoric leafy plants. Salty water flicking in my face while I held on tight for a curvy boat ride. Floating in the ocean, then keeping the sand off my hoagie. Journal #11 Jan. 7, 2012 Swimming under dark clouds, watching rain making dots in the ocean. Jazz on the beach sounds like a conversation between drums and waves. The VIPs don’t get wet when it rains The base stays in my head, dodging puddles, walking home. Journal #12 Jan. 14, 2012 Got two free rides on motos today, glad I had my helmet. Never enough plates when friends stop and offer them dinner. Saucepan lids make good plates or almost bowls, even better. The lights just went out, it’s 3AM, doesn’t really matter. Journal #13 Jan. 21, 2012 Got a marriage proposal from a toothless 80 year old man this morning. Dipped a paintbrush into my heart and painted love on childrens’ faces. Kind of addicted to the garlic galleticas and café in the afternoon. Put rum in my tea and I liked it. Journal #14 Jan. 28, 2012 Bought a corn cob grilled on the curb for 10 pesos. No umbrella means a rainwater shower with my neighbors. Jonny hands me soap, washing my hair and feet, flicking my hair like a dog. Next day, she fills my big bottle with fresh rainwater, sweet and free. Journal #15 Feb. 4, 2012 On La Loma where Felicia lives, caves run under the brick colored dirt. Half her floor is cement and the rest is dirt. Her son takes me to see his roosters while her daughter washes dishes. Two boys wearing shorts and bare feet sharing a bottle of orange fanta. Journal #16 Feb. 11, 2012 Every kid always wants to be first in line and to have the sharpest pencil. They like to pssst for attention and drink in praise by the gallons. Painting plastic lid mandalas and the older boys bling them like necklaces. Five of my morning fourth graders can’t write their last names. Journal #17 Feb. 18, 2012 A montessori student was told to sit still and listen to his teacher. If not, his little white shirt would be given to another student. He sat still. Walked home with a pebble dancing up my chancleta from my heel to my toes. Read my book by flashlight until I fell asleep. Journal # 18 Feb. 25, 2012 I can hear that little girl on the moto laughing all the way down the street. Bought some yucca young boys were selling out of a wheel barrel. Bautista’s wife Maria says I have gripe; it’s really just a runny nose. The crunching pebbles under my feet let my neighbors’ know I’m home Journal # 19 Mar. 3, 2012 The ice-cream truck is a man walking and whistling with a cooler on his shoulders. New bright lime colored paint on my neighbor’s new upstairs makes me smile. The puddles on my street grew larger today. Rain on metal roofs sounds like clapping. Journal #20 Mar. 10, 2012 Turquoise water puddles against the curb Brownish dog chomping on his butt again. Huge spider crawled up my arm when I reached for a bag under the sink People say; God willing and thanks to God. God is big here. Journal #21 Mar. 17, 2012 Littlest boy with the biggest boots Children buying salami and cheese empanadas before school. Can buy whatever heals at the farmacia, no prescription needed. Buy eggs individually, they put it in a little fundas, bring them home, fry them up. Journal #22 Mar. 24, 2012 Bought salt water soaked buenfruta from a blue-eyed man. Danced until 3AM then slept until 11AM. Boulders on the beach picnic spot for olives, nuts and cheese. My five peso café at 4 pm will be a 10 peso café tomorrow Journal #2 Mar. 31, 2012 Little boys find round things that roll to make their racers then paint them white. I have a pet salamander that lives in the coconut shell on my shelf. Sitting on the tile floor, eating an orange, laughing, talking Bautista said the mamajuana is almost ready; healing herbs with a wine buzz Journal #25 Apr. 7, 2012 My abuelita neighbors sweep the leaves from our stony yard. Women glare with daggers, I smile, their face softens and they call you ‘mi amor.’ Sunshine rainshowers come and go, but my clothes stay on the line to dry. Chinola-passion fruit with Avena-ground oatmeal=breakfast of champions.

Entry Details
  • Art form: 2-D
  • Depth:
  • Medium: Mixed media, photographs, and poetry
  • Width: 15'
  • Year created: 2012
  • Height: 10'

Venue & Connection Information

The 24 frames range in size from 6'x10' to 3"x4". A wall or window space about 10'x 12' in surface area. The piece can be arranged in any configuration to suit the venue.

Venue Considerations
  • Special Lighting needed: No
  • Internet needed: No
  • Indoor Space needed: Yes
  • Outdoor Space needed: No
  • Audio/Video needed: No
  • Electrical needed: No

About Maria Elena

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