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Portfolio: Collages

“I like how an object carries history.”

Cuban-born artist Mario Petrirena immigrated to the United States in 1962 at the age of eight. As one of 14,000 children who arrived in the United States in what was called Operation Pedro Pan, Petrirena and his siblings lived in an orphanage in Colorado for nearly a year before reuniting with their parents in Belle Glade, Florida. It was in this small town next to Lake Okeechobee where Petrirena received his initiation in American culture. He says, “Most of the Cubans that came early on thought that Fidel would fall and they would be able to go back and Cuba would resume as a democracy or a better Cuba. At first they really believed that. There was always a real appreciation about what this country had to offer as far as the ideals – the freedom of speech and being able to vote for a president.” He earned a B.A. degree at the University of Florida and later married his wife, Susan, who was from Atlanta, where they have resided for over 30 years.

Of his two worlds, Petrirena states, “For a long time I felt really Cuban when I was in the American world, in a way, and then I felt very American when I was in the Cuban world because we were hybrid. As time when by, I started to appreciate the complexity and the layering that made me who I was . . . And my [art]work really helped me with that.”

Petrirena’s work embraces a wide range of materials and forms, including clay, found objects, collage, and installation. Believing found objects to be “beautiful and layered,” Petrirena collects old photographs and from time to time sifts through the recycling bin at the farmer’s market in Decatur for magazines and images. He understands his artwork consists of different fragments and different pieces – sometime contradictory – that suggest a new whole, which, as he says is “very, very much what my work is about and it’s very much who I am.”

This portfolio features nine of his collages.


*The above quotes were taken from a September 5, 2011, interview of Mario Petrirena by Katherine Doss.