Alumna returns to inaugurate long awaited Frost Museum

By: Genevieve Steele / Critique Corner
The awaited and anticipated Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum will officially be open to the public Nov. 29. Students interested in fine art can study and learn among the works of celebrated artists and top quality museum professionals – not to mention, admission is free.

The Frost Art Museum is the first stop on a national tour for “Modern Masters from the Smithsonian American Art Museum,” which features more than 30 artists who transformed American Art in the years after World War II.

The Frost also showcases contemporary, mid-career and emerging artists. Luisa Basnuevo, one of those artists, is a 20-year alumna of the University’s art program. The Beacon recently sat down with Basnuevo to discuss her taste in art and her latest exhibition, “Simulacra and Essence: The Paintings of Luisa Basnuevo.”

**The Beacon:** Out of all the work you have seen in art history, who do you love and who do you loathe?

**Luisa Basnuevo:** I really like many works of art, and it is hard to select just one. I remember as a student that I liked a specific artist, but then, a few years later, I liked another artist better and so on.

My list keeps growing all the time and I don’t loathe [anyone]. But only a few times [have I] really been moved in a very profound way by a work of art.

The paintings of the Altamira cave is probably the one work that has impacted me the most. They are magical, sensitive, emotionally charged and high quality paintings/engravings. It is indeed a brilliant use of space.

They are so contemporary but yet so old. And the fact that only three of us with flash lights were inside the entire cave made the experience even better.

TB: When you were studying at Yale for your MFA, what was the most significant moment, person, place and thing, which brought you where you are today?

LB: The whole Yale campus was important. I really took advantage of everything that it had to offer … not just the art school. I remember I visited and spent a lot of time in all its libraries and museums. I would have lunch and dinner in Yale’s different dining halls. In fact, it was in one of those dining halls that I met the most significant person in my life: my husband. He is by far, my most ardent admirer, critic and supporter. This show is dedicated to him.

TB: How do your paintings, especially those in your solo show premiering at the opening of the Frost Museum, reflect information about your life or your past lives?

LB: The apparent cone shapes are based on eucalyptus tree seeds.
They are very common in the region where I lived in northern Spain after I left Cuba. Indeed, I have a very emotional connection with them [because] their scent [always reminds me of] the village and the great times I had when I lived there as a child.

TB: Do you believe in past lives or reincarnation? Your paintings remind me of this, especially, knowing how you have lived in Cuba, Spain and America. I look at your works, they are surreal. They take on a dream-like story and remind me of an outer-body-experience.

LB: I don’t believe in reincarnation. I believe that we are here in this space for a while and when the time comes, we go home. The painting titled “The Gate” deals with this transition and it is probably the most meaningful to me, especially after the death of my father and my cousin this past year. This painting represents the agony of the body and the liberation of the soul. The title was taken from scripture, “Jesus explained: I am the Gate for the sheep, whoever enters through me will be safe and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10: 7-9)

TB: You received your BFA from the University in 1988. This is like a 20-year anniversary for you. What would you like to say to all of the students graduating this year, including those studying visual arts?

LB: Keep working hard and always have hope in what you do. I keep with me a holy card of Saint Teresa of Avila with an excerpt of one her famous poems. It says: “La paciencia todo lo alcanza” (Patient endurance attaineth to all things). This exhibition is proof of that. After 20 years, I have my first solo show in a major Miami Museum … and it gets better, I am also inaugurating it. Unbelievable!

TB: In the press meeting you described your strange experience in Spain, in which people were congregated for a religious purpose and were seeing images in the flames of candles. Can you continue with the story?

LB: What I was trying to say was that the formations in the paintings resemble religious processions among other things.

The Spanish town that I lived in had many religious catholic holidays, and it was the custom to have a solemn candle light procession with all the residents and a [party] at the end of the day.

TB: What would you like to see our new President-Elect, Barack Obama, do to make change in our country?

LB: I hope President-Elect Obama keeps his promise of uniting everybody as one United States of America. No more divisions between red states or blue states, blacks, whites, Latinos, gay, straight, etc … as he said. I sincerely hope that he keeps inspiring people in order to work together for the common good of this country.

TB: Thank you so much your time, Luisa.

LB: Thank you … It is this kind of support and enthusiasm that keeps me going. I want to take this opportunity to thank Emeritus Professor James Couper and the board of directors of the Frost Art Museum for believing and making such a bold decision in selecting my work.

There are many great FIU alumni artists who deserve this opportunity as well. Also, I want to thank the Frost Art Museum’s Director Carol Damian and staff. They have been working very hard by installing all these wonderful shows that the museum is presenting for the public to see.

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