Osorio, Andrea Miller Keller, Will K. Wilkins, and Luis Cotto will engage in a conversation at the Wadsworth Atheneum surrounding Pepón’s piece, ‘En la barbería no se llora,’ or “No crying in the barbershop.” It was created in a store front on Park Street, in the heart of Hartford’s Hispanic neighborhood.
For Osorio, the world of the barbería represents an institutionalized version of Latino machismo.
“..it’s about recreating my memory,” Osorio said. “When I was 5 years old my father took me to get my first haircut right around the neighborhood. And what was meant to be a celebration became disastrous event. I was crying a lot, I was scared…What traumatized me wasn’t so much the haircut itself but the way that this barber dealt with my kind of hair…That experience was a combination of race and a right of passage into becoming a little man.”
This gringo blogger can relate, man. I remember a mean butcher barber in Absecon, N.J. bragging about how he clipped an unknowing hippie. Then he cut off my bangs. That was probably 1977, and I’m still fuming. But then, it was another barbershop where I first laid eyes on a Mad Magazine among the periodicals in the waiting area… but this isn’t about me.
First commissioned by RAW, this particular “barbershop” has traveled around the world as far away as Tokyo. It will be at the Wadsworth until Jan. 9, 2011.
RAW is asking, “Did it have an impact in Hartford? If so, what? If not, why not?”
From RAW’s description: “Visitors to 481 Park Street entered a familiar yet unexpected space. Photos of Latino men—athletes, politicians and entertainers—hung on the walls from floor to ceiling on a background of floral wallpaper. Potency powder was ‘for sale’ at the front counter. Five red velvet barber chairs were covered with objects representing pastimes like baseball, fishing and horse racing. The wallpaper on the ceiling showed images of giant sperm. Videos in the stall mirrors showed men flexing their muscles, but monitors in the head of each barber chair showed men silently crying. A fish tank held a scene from the Last Supper and a life-sized Saint Lazarus, considered a healer of physical and spiritual pain, watched over the front door.”
The artist was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, and is considered one of the most significant artists working in the United States today. Osorio’s pieces, influenced by his experience as a social worker, usually evolve from an interaction with the neighborhoods and people among whom he is working.
“My principal commitment as an artist is to return art to the community,” he says. Osorio’s works are in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Walker Art Center, Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, and the Wadsworth Atheneum, and his many awards include the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship.
If you remember visiting the ‘Barbershop’ in the summer of 1994, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 860.838.4060 to share your thoughts and/or memories. The talk is 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30 at the museum’s Aetna Theater. Admission to the museum is free, as it is on the final Saturdays of every month.