Art and Literature: The Paintings of Ivette Guzmán-Zavala

La Literatura y Arte:

Soledad (A Juila de Burges)

Las Pinturas de

Profesora Ivette Guzmán-Zavala


"Era una rama verde la inmensa soledad
de ella salían nidos buscando ruiseñores,
pies aplastando pétalos
y rubios cementerios inclinándose al cielo."
"Poema con un solo después" by Julia de Burgos

I am from the island of Puerto Rico and grew up surrounded by trees that were always green and in bloom. As a child I loved to play in the woods behind my parent's house patio or climb up a huge tree in my grandmother's backyard. Later, as an adult, I came to the United States to pursue my graduate degrees and came in contact with the changing seasons. I am still amazed by nature's intense display of colors during fall and saddened with trees that have lost their leaves during winter. Missing my tropical island and its people, those trees talk to me about myself, about dealing with changes, about sometimes feeling alone and uprooted, but also about the wonderful promise of growing new and green leaves.

The artwork that you will see here is part of my attempt to articulate connections between two of my academic interests and backgrounds: literature and art. All of these paintings are inspired by a written text that called my attention, a visual image created by me and a life experience of my own. This project started many years ago at Syracuse University under the guidance of then visiting artist Laura Vandenburgh. The texts--some in English and some in Spanish--originate from a diverse group of women writers like the Puerto Rican Julia de Burgos, the American Silvia Plath, the Uruguayan Adelaida Alvarez, the Spanish Carmen Riera and the Mexican-American María Hinojosa. I hope that you enjoy them.


Desde aqui, Desde mi ventana...         "Desde aquí, desde mi ventana, no puedo ver el mar... sólo nubes, nubes descoloridas, deshaciéndose... nada que valga la pena... casas de pisos, altas y feas, con flores mortecinas en los balcones y toldos amarillentos requemados por el sol .... No puedo ver el mar porque queda lejos de aquí, al otro lado de la ciudad.... Este mar no se parece en nada al nuestro. Es como una lámina metálica, sin transparencias ni colores cambiantes, coagulado, endurecido....""
Te dejo amor, en prenda el mar" (fragmento) by Carmen Riera


Arbol de higo (uno)         "I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantine and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crewArbol de higo (dos) champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.

         I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant loosing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet."

"The Bell Jar" by Silvia Plath

Mis Raices

"Soy un árbol sin ramas.
Y aquí estoy, dialogando con mis quietas raíces, mi castigado tiempo,
mis sueños, mis palabras."
"Al Mundo" (fragmento) by Adelaida Alvarez de Toledo

...and I say, Yes I am...         "...and I say Yes, I am. And I am your neighbor, and I am teaching your kids and I speak perfect English, and I am right here next to you. I am living right here on your territory. I am a part of this American life, I am a part of you and yet I am not. I am a foreigner in your land (...) a way for me to educate people around me to accept difference. If you can see me and accept me then you can learn how to let other people that are different into your life and your community, too. It was my way of saying we are here. It was my way of saying, don't fear difference because it is everywhere."

"Raising Raul" by María Hinojosa