Firelei Báez - Retablo (España en Las Americas)

The color saturated and highly patterned paintings by Firelei Báez hone in on historical details of colonial life in the Caribbean. Drawing on her Haitian and Dominican heritage, Báez unpacks the restrictions placed on women of African descent, questioning traditional dress: for example in colonial era Louisiana, women were required to wear head wraps in order to curtail what the artist describes as afro-textured hair.

Retablo (España en Las Americas), 2014, is a painting of a severed arm on a wood grain background. The surface of the arm is tattooed in Toile de Jouy-style print. Retablo is the Spanish word for offering, or sacrifice. The severed arm symbolizes the human cost of Spain’s colonial presence in the Americas as well as the loss of individual agency. In this instance, the history of violence is written directly onto the body, as if recounting the dismembered limb’s story.

Between History and Body:

Firelei Báez - Retablo - 2014
Title: Retablo (España en Las Americas),
Author: Firelei Báez
Medium: Acrylic/Ink on Paper
Dimensions: 36" × 38"

About the Author
Firelei Báez was born, in 1981, in the Dominican Republic to Dominican and Haitian parents, and immigrated to the United States at the age of nine.

She is winner of the 2015 Catherine Doctorow Prize for Contemporary Painting, presented by the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art.