Carlos Alfonzo, Where Tears Can't Stop, 1986, acrylic on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, © 1986, Sena Toll Artigas, Museum purchase made possible by the American Art Forum, 1998.18
Alfonzo borrowed from Cuban Santería, medieval Catholic mysticism, and tarot cards to build a dense network of symbols floating in huge limpid tears. Where Tears Can't Stop reflects the violence that Alfonzo experienced before he fled with the Marielitos exiled by Castro in 1980. But the work also holds subtle clues that evoke Alfonzo's homosexuality and the fear and anger generated by the AIDS epidemic. In the mid-1980s, Americans coming to terms with thousands of deaths began to piece together enormous quilts—as the artist stitched together several canvases for this image—filling them with symbols of suffering, loss, and defiance. In Alfonzo's painting, the image of a tongue spiked by a dagger is a Santería charm against gossip and the "evil eye," two responses to HIV-positive men that were common in the epidemic's early years. Rumors and innuendo shaped the perception that AIDS was only a gay man's disease, and the evil eye recalls a widespread belief that the tears of the infected carried the virus. Alfonzo died of AIDS five years after he completed this work.
Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006
Where Tears Can't Stop
- On View
- Not on view.
95 3/4 x 128 1/4 in. (243.2 x 325.8 cm.)
© 1986, Sena Toll Artigas
- Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible by the American Art Forum
- Mediums Description
- acrylic on canvas
- Object Number
- Linked Open Data
- Linked Open Data URI