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Sandra Ramos

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When one has the privilege to see in sequence the work of Sandra Ramos in a disc with clear images, one receives the impression of having entered along with Alice in her trip to the unreal country of Wonderland. Sandra is there, always present, just like that “one peculiar creature… given to pretend the doubling of its person, and believing to be two instead of one.”

But her work, contrary to the established thought, is not autobiographical (it was so in its initial engravings, specifically in four of them). Although her face appears all the time, we need simply the luck of alter ego, to lead to us through her motivating universe, full of suggestions.

Sandra is a jovial and smiling woman. Nevertheless, in my perception, her ideas paradoxically reveal an atmosphere where nostalgia, melancholy and a certain sadness are united. The moderated tone denotes puzzlement and perplexity before the world; but it never stops being simultaneously strong, acute and even ironic in certain moments, and even sarcastic. It also works intensely, as a form of catharsis and of exorcism. When I related these observations to her, she responded quickly and laughing: “That’s why I am never depressed!”

The abilities of this artist are unquestionable. She works with ease and effectiveness the same in printmaking, as in painting (better when it is acrylic than oil), drawing, installations, digitally and video. Much of what she creates is attractive to both sophisticated and untrained eyes. When commenting to her on the aesthetic aspect of her work and the manner of controlling the “prettiness” that naturally comes forth from her works, she spoke to me of her constant fight to look for a suitable balance. As the artistic form conditions the message, some of her works are more narrative and some more symbolic. Sandra enjoys everything she does, but she told me that she feels better when she does installations: “they are something different, the same as when one breaks the routine of the daily life.”

Against all the established stereotypes, basically those that have made her well-known by her mastery of printmaking and her work dealing with the subject of emigration, in truth her fundamental subject is the limit. For that reason is that there is in her work so many repressed figures, frontiers, edge marks, confined peripheral lines, etc. “There is no total freedom,” she said to me. “Total freedom is not possible for anything or for anybody, because everything is limited by something. Total freedom does not to exist.” Perhaps for that reason we find the omnipresence of water in her creations, when not physically, by the use of the metallic paper in reference to the liquid, rich in symbolisms. And the work of Sandra is very full of symbolic language, although sometimes sinfully literal.

Freedom and water reoccur in her work, as a leitmotif. The former, philosophically understood as absence of conditions and limits, in as much as chance and self-determination. The latter, by the duality of the symbol, in the sense of the doctrine of Zarathustra, who admits two principles or divinities: one of the good and another one of the evil, which continuously fight with each other. They are Sandra metaphors for downings, shipwrecks, reviving cleansings, etc.

Multiple symbols for water exist. For example, in Jewish folklore the separation of the waters made by God into superiors and inferiors, designates the division of water into male water and female water, which symbolize security and insecurity, masculine and feminine. Water can be considered as two planes rigorously opposed to each other, but in no way irreducible. Similar ambivalence exists at all levels. The water is source of life and source of death, creator and destroyer. It is also the symbol of spiritual life. Such ambivalence is perceived clearly in Sandra, in the same way that a subtle spirituality emanates from a great number of her creations.

History is also a quite frequent subject in Sandra’s work. She likes to appropriate well-known personages from Cuban cartoons and humoristic drawing, such as the Fool of Abela, Liborio, etc., and she puts them in conversations with personages invented by her, to establish the recurrence of the situations. The commentaries that those prototypes of the Creole did at their time, for her do not lose strength. She looks to reveal the antecedents of the present, because she is of the opinion that nothing happens in vain, and everything has a reference to the history of the country.

Not by chance is the work of Sandra abundant in meaning and connotations; even the titles of the pieces contibute. It is thanks to her rich inner world, worked by multiple readings that include literature (poetry especially), classic philosophy, history, etc. So that it is relatively easy for her to go to cultured appointments, or to re-use old engravings in new contexts to comment about the present time. With such images she obtains a form of surreal visibility, without her work having to do anything with surrealism; they give the impression of unreal worlds, that brings to mind Alice’s favorite phrase to begin her stories: “Let us imagine that …” And then it is up to the spectator to fantasize… the limits in this case only are in their capacity of invention.