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Muse of the Month: Artist Carlos Martiel

Inspired Art | Muse of the Month

Title: “Condecoración Martiel, Carlos” by Carlos Martiel

Medium: Metal, human skin, video and photography

About this piece: Carlos Martiel is a provocative 25-year-old Cuban performance artist who currently lives in Miami. With his newest project for CIFO, “Condecoración Martiel, Carlos,” Martiel raises the issue of race relations in Cuba and what it’s like to be a black man on the island with unconventional materials like human skin fused with metal. 

“To speak about racism in Cuba is to speak about a real problem because there has never been a possibilty to develop a collective consciousness against discrimination,” Martiel said.

About seven weeks ago, Martiel had surgery to remove a two-inch piece of skin from his waist. The skin tissue was then treated and dried by a professional taxidermist/arts preservation expert, enabling Martiel to implant the skin into the circular part of a medal, which resembles the medal the Cuban government awards to “select citizens.” After the healing process, he had the technical details of the work tattooed around the new scar, leaving a record of the medal on his body forever. 

“Cuba is a space that takes people’s self-worth away. It’s a space where people fight every day against a reality that devours them. This medal is the decoration to the self for all that we have given to our society,” he said as he explained the powerful and painful motivation for his work. 

In other words, a medal made with his own body symbolizes a replacement for the recognition and merit he never received because of his skin color.

Martiel, an artist-in-residence at Cannonball in downtown Miami, was selected by CIFO’s board of directors for a two-month residency leading up to the unveiling of its 12th annual Grants & Commissions Program exhibition, in which emerging, mid-career and established contemporary artists from Latin America develop and present new work in Miami. 

See it with your own eyes: Martiel’s completed project “Condecoración Martiel, Carlos” is part of the 2014 Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO) Grants & Commissions Program. You can see it at the exhibition, “Fleeting Imaginaries,” which is on view from Friday, Sept. 5 – Nov. 2 at the CIFO Space, 1018 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Free and open to the public noon – 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on weekends.