Carmen Herrera: Prodigiosa y Tenaz

Last spring I did my first translation for a major U.S. museum. I translated an essay by Gerardo Mosquera for the Whitney Musem’s exhibition, Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight. Incidentally, this is Herrera’s first solo exhibition by a major museum, so I felt even more passionate about getting it right.

To prepare, I read everything I could about Carmen Herrera, abstract expressionism, and minimalism in Spanish and English. My initial aim was to familiarize myself with terminology, but even after I got a good sense of the lexicon and determined translations for concepts that were new to me, I kept reading. I was fascinated by the 101-year-old Cuban, American, immigrant artist who received very little recognition before her hundredth birthday but kept painting anyway. I love her. I love everything she symbolizes. Here are some of the coolest things I learned.

photo via the Whitney Museum of American Art

Carmen Herrera started painting as a child and dedicated her life to making art, despite not selling a single painting until she was 89.

photo via The 100 Years Show, a documentary film about Herrera

Despite being arthritic and wheelchair-bound, she continues to paint every day.


photo via Lisson Gallery

She explains that her art is driven by the quest for simple geometric abstractions and refutes interpretations of her paintings that contradict her.



photo via the Whitney Museum of American Art

Her interviews are incredibly fun to read because she seems to have a witty retort to everything, including art criticism: “‘People see very sexy things — dirty minds! — but to me sex is sex, and triangles are triangles’” (quoted by Deborah Sontag).



photo via Gotham Magazine


Gallery owners admitted that she was producing better, more innovative work than her male peers and explicitly refused to represent her because she was a woman; the only museums who showed her art were museums dedicated to showing art by marginalized, Latin@ artists; and still, she persevered.


photo via


Her success began a few years after her husband died, and people around her asked if maybe her husband––who had been a staunch supporter of her work––was helping her from heaven. In a 2009 interview, she refuted that interpretation: “‘Yeah, right, Jesse on a cloud. I worked really hard. Maybe it was me.’”


photo via the Whitney Museum of American Art


Her favorite artist is herself.

The Whitney retrospective closes this Monday, but I hope it is the first of many. That may well be the case because, after it closes in New York, the show is headed to Ohio.

Carmen Herrera: Prodigiosa y Tenaz

Queens & Sheroes

This is a post about my weekend, and I am going to attempt writing it in record time: seventeen minutes. Ready, go!

Oops, I just wasted three whole minutes contemplating Words With Friends.

Back on track!

On Friday, after my last day of work at my first job in New York, I had to wait an extra hour for my supervisor to sign off on my last timesheet. I guess she wanted the significance of the moment to really sink in.

Actually, she just forgot and went to do whatever it is people who work late on Fridays (by choice) do.

Regardless, the significance did sink in! I couldn’t wait to get home, rush to the laundromat, return home with clean clothes, meet Devin at Grand Central, and go out for A Night on the Town. ‘Maybe we can even get appetizers at a Fancy Restaurant during happy hour!,’ I thought to myself.

I left work and hustled to the train. I even ran down the stairs at the subway
stop—something I hardly ever do because in my head I hear my mami yelling, ‘No corras porque te caes!‘ Like Michelle Pfeiffer in One Fine Day, I made it onto the subway just in time.* I transferred to the J just as easily. And then I found myself in Queens for the very first time. Here are some observations about Queens.

1) People really like wearing logos in Queens.

2) Only two people sit while waiting for the train in Queens: a distinguished gentleman who wears spectacles on the end of his nose and a certified lazybones, me.

3) A strong matrifocal energy is surrounds you as soon as you enter the queendom!

I’d like to return to make aboveground observations, but for now, these will suffice. You probably know where this story is going. I ended up spending my Friday night doing laundry, and the closest I got to fancy appetizers was half a Kit Kat. Instead of meeting Devin at Grand Central, he met me at the wash-a-teria. It wasn’t all for naught, though. We met a little girl, let’s call her Kari, and her mami. Kari is 3 years old and super cool. We played with her baby doll, let’s call her Bebé because that is her name, and talked about the world. It was exciting! Maybe too exciting. Judging by her very wet green pants, Kari may or may not have had an accident. We are still not sure because when asked, Kari confidently said, ‘No. No me hice pipí.’ 


On Saturday Devin and I ventured even farther outside Brooklyn. We went to Philadelphia to visit his grandmother, aunt, uncle, and super cool cousin. I was so happy to meet them all and could write a book about what lovely hosts they were and how much fun I had. There would have to be sequel about the food we were fed in Philadelphia (yum yum yum yum yum). No room in this blog post to do our trip justice, unfortunately, but I will say that Devin’s grandma has officially been inducted into my Sheroes Hall of Fame. It was inspiring to meet someone who is so loving and thoughtful. We had never met, but she has been sending me little presents for over two years! And now we play Words With Friends together. (I just started playing, and I need practice. Everybody, play with meeeee!)


On Sunday I went to Occupy Wall Street to meet another shero, my college Admission Counselor. I hadn’t seen her since she interviewed me and told me about my now-alma mater. That was in 2006. She was so awesome and helpful. When my mom was scared for me to go to school so far way from home, my counselor offered to let my mom crash on her couch. That is how awesome she is and how much she puts into her job. Seeing her was almost surreal. I am really, really happy that she is still helping kids get to and make it through college. We were standing around catching up when we heard, ‘Mic check!’

A womyn directly in front of us announced that the legendary Judith Butler (feminist, post-structuralist philosopher) would be speaking…immediately. We sat down and got to hear her speak. Unbelievable! I took a picture, but my phone is being weird. I’ll try to post it later, but for now, watch her short speech.

To re-cap: seeing Judith Butler brings my shero count to 3 in 2 days. Talk about an inspiring weekend!

Somehow writing this ended up taking over twelve hours, and I really need to get ready because I’m going to the MoMA (!) for free (!!!). I hope you had a nice weekend, too.


*Disclaimer: I don’t remember if Pfeiffer’s character ever takes the subway, but she does a lot of running around. You get the idea.

Queens & Sheroes