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Visual Artists Celebrate Their Hispanic Heritage

Friducha, by Nelson Cardenas. Image courtesy of the artist.

Nelson Cardenas and Marisela Rodriguez are visual artists who celebrate their Hispanic heritage through their work. Cardenas pays homage to Frida Kahlo and other cultural icons, while Rodriguez’s paintings evoke the spirit of Cuba.

Their works are part of an exhibition in the town of Oakland for Hispanic Heritage Month. Cardenas and Rodriguez join Intersection host Matthew Peddie for a conversation about their art. 

Tropicana, by Marisela Rodriguez. Image courtesy of the artist

“What really inspires me, every day of my life is…my Hispanic heritage,” says Rodriguez.

“It’s rooted in me. I’m a proud Cuban. And I’m very thankful that my family left Cuba to come to the United States.”

Rodriguez says her parents fled Cuba when she was a child. Before taking up art full time, Rodriguez ran a company.

Rodriguez mostly paints in acrylic. With her paintings, Rodriguez says she is depicting “The thriving Cuba, colorful Cuba, not the Cuba that is today. It’s also the Cuba that I would like to see in the future.”

Cardenas works with found objects and mixed media, and uses a blow torch to create images on wood. He and his mother came to the US from Colombia when he was a child.

“When I was little, we didn’t have much and every toy that we had, we made ourselves,” says Cardenas.

Cardenas says he has carried that approach into his work today.

“I’m now creating my own art from zero, because I pretty much put my entire canvases together, and it is a combination of different materials that I work with: metal with wood, canvas, leather, glass, mirrors. So I think that I got to this point, because of the things that I had to survive when I was little,” he says.

Cardenas, who works as a chef for Orlando Health, paid homage to health care workers during the height of the pandemic with a series of artworks that were later displayed at the Orange County History Center. 

See more of the artworks on display at the Oakland Arts and Heritage Center here.

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About Matthew Peddie

Matt Peddie