Left: Rafael Tufiño, Cortador de caña, 1951
Right: Amolando, undated
Left: Rafael Tufiño, Goyita, 1953
Right: Woman with hoe, 1944-1947
Left: Rafael Tufiño, Vita cola, 1961
Right: Girl in pink dress in front of house, 1950's
The images in the paintings may seem somewhat nostalgic to a boricua, because the evoke another time and another way of life - one that our grandparents may still tell stories about. But a closer look reveals a kinship with reality which may be a bit softened by memory and aesthetics, but still bears resemblance to what life really looked like. The man in Amolando could be the same man as in Cortador de caña; not only is the job the same, but so are the surroundings, the attire, and the sense in both images of back-breaking work. Goyita (who is actually Tufiño's mother) shares the same skin color and look of determination as the Woman in Woman with hoe. Skin color in PR is varied, and the issues faced by those with dark skin were not only very close to Tufiño's experience, they were ones he chose to explore in his works. The girls standing in front of wooden houses in the last images share a similar sense of shyness mixed with curiosity as well as a similar background.
All three paintings above were done by Rafael Tufiño. I didn't concentrate on his works solely because they're good, but because his seemed to be the most available. It was disappointingly difficult to find a good number of images of Puerto Rican art on the internet, especially by those who worked in the earlier part of the 20th century. Many artists are referenced, as are their works, but not many images are available. Even images of works by Francisco Oller, PR's pre-eminent artist and close friend of the likes of Camille Pissarro and Paul Cezanne, are in short supply. Oller is a painter who should be more recognized internationally, but if we don't work harder to make sure our talent shines, he will remain a footnote in the biographies of his friends.
Just as our coastline is not all lost to the Marriots and the Hiltons, our countryside and its dwellings are not all lost to new cookie-cutter developments sprawling into once-green and lush landscape. We're more packed in, even out in the countryside, but we can still enjoy views that were also enjoyed by abuelo and abuela. Although the power cables are indeed not part of the bucolic landcascape of yore!