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Sandra Ramos

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Water was the primary medium in a series of installations and the prints in Heritage of the Fish and intriguing solo show by Cuban artist Sandra Ramos. Two of the installations in particular suggested an existence saturated by marine heritage that proved to be both waterlogged and buoyant.

For those who live on an island as Ramos does (Cuba), water is a substance that nurtures as well as confines and kills. The show’s title underscored this double-edged phenomenon with its reference to the poem Fish’s Last Will and Testament an ode to Havana filled with melancholy, desire, and regret, by Gaston Baquero (1918-97), who lived in exile in Madrid after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959.

Ramos’s Self-Recognition of the Fish (1997) is a life-size mirror cut in the shape of the artist’s figure. The work incorporates a black-and-white photograph of Ramos’s face, while attached to her head, hands, and feet are small, mirrored aquariums fitted with dollhouse furniture and fish. Images f the artist and the viewer merged in this shimmering, watery construction, suggesting that the potential for self-realization is insubstantial and mercurial

Why does rain look like a flood of tears? (1999) was the most visually stunning. It offered a barely penetrable forest of hand blown glass vessels swollen at the base like drops of water, placed on the floor and suspended from the ceiling. Reflected within these vessels was the flickering realm of the gallery’s surroundings. The installation gently merged metaphors for personal loss, suggested by the rain of tears, with shiny facets of an external ephemeral environment that would always remain integral to the brittle membrane of sorrow.

Ramos’s newest work. Airmall: Mirages (2002-03) dealt with similar themes. Consisting of a hallway decked with ligthboxes on each side and video at the end, it resembled the inside of an airplane. Meant to represent windows, the ligthboxes each displayed a different object-a cordless phone, an engagement ring, and a house, among other things. Coveted yet inaccessible, the objects in their boxes parodied the American Dream.