Bending Bone China: Juana Valdes’ Politics of the Skin

Josune Urbistondo


Juana Valdes is an Afro Cuban-American artist whose contributions to visual arts offer a severe critique on contemporary politics of race, gender, and mobility. While she is most notably known for her ceramic sailboats shown in galleries all over the world, her most recent works on bone china examine her place within Caribbean diasporic and American racial politics. In this article I will examine how these installation works continue not only a conversation on race, gender, and politics, but also concern themselves with aging and cultural memory. One piece in particular, La botaron como un trapo viejo, presents rag like ceramic pieces in various skin tones and textures. Another example, the as of yet untitled piece also on bone china that reads a variation of the phrase, It’s about hanging by a nail by the thread by the skin of your teeth, echoes the multiplicity of interpretation in Trinidadian artist, Christopher Cozier’s Tropical Night series while the black and white lettering simultaneously points to a haunted space within the American imaginary very similar to Kara Walker’s race-based historical fantasies. This article will serve as an occasion to present Juana Valdes’ most recent works as shedding light on the re-production of gender and racial ideologies which speak to a pan-Caribbean, transcultural moment all the while countering the newly minted “post-racial” American myth.


Cuba; culture; Valdes; Bone china; race


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