Havana, Cuba: 1947–Present

María Brito paints, sculpts, and creates installations. Her work is about metaphor and memory.  From the common objects of daily life, Brito makes artwork that evokes questions of identity and place.

Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1947, María was thirteen years old when she and her brother came to the United States, and her parents arrived shortly thereafter. They were part of the thousands of Cubans who fled Fidel Castro’s revolution. A member of the Miami Generation of artists who were educated entirely in the United States, she developed her own visual language to deal with sensitive issues of acculturation and identity. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Florida International University and her Master of Fine Arts from the University of Miami. Although she began her career as a ceramicist, she soon started to sculpt and create her characteristically theatrical installations, which have recently begun to include paintings. The artists of the Miami Generation often express the struggle to reconcile the memories of the past with the realities of the present. Her creations frequently combine elements from her childhood in Cuba with her current concerns and states of mind.

In addition to exploring these issues of past experience and present identity, María is also interested in the complex balance between one’s external appearance and internal thoughts and experiences, as well as the numerous roles individuals play throughout their lives. Brito herself, for instance, tends to explore her own interwoven personas as woman, artist, mother, daughter, wife, Catholic, and Cuban American. While her work visually articulates fragments of her highly personal journey, the meaning of which is not always revealed, her installations are meant to convey universal meaning and resonate with all viewers.

The mysterious, illusive quality of her work invites viewer participation and interpretation, generally instigated through María’s provocative arrangement of everyday objects in domestic scenes.

In the autobiographical installation El Patio de mi Casa, she leads the viewer from her childhood to her maturity as she reflects on the meaning of home and place. The work is divided into two sections: a sepia-gray half with a crib, meant to reference her childhood experience, and a modern day pink kitchen scene, seemingly intended to refer to the present. Elements of the past pepper the present-day kitchen (the small house inside a glass jar, bottled “air” from the past inside the cabinet, and a twig, placed in water, supposedly cut from the tree that casts its shadow on the child’s crib). To María, these items symbolize hope, for their presence suggests continuity with the past. Other objects add mystery to the installation, such as the plaster face that rests on the cutting board beside the sink, and the ominous shadows of a tree projected across the side of the crib.

For the title María chose a nursery rhyme from her childhood that she found herself humming as she worked on El Patio de Mi Casa. She refers to her pieces as “the manifestations of my inner search,” but while their creation begins with the artist’s personal experiences, memories, and feelings, their metaphorical nature leaves ample room for interpretation. This lack of a literal narrative empowers the viewer and makes her work applicable to anyone willing to explore memories and confront the complexities of identity and experience.

Note: The short quote is taken from an interview with María Brito by Andrew Connors in June and July 1995.