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By Judith Bettelheim and Janet Catherine Berlo
with contributions by José Bedia, Lauren Derby, Orlando Hernández, and Alan Varela
Artist José Bedia, who was born and raised in Havana, was exposed during his early years to what scholar Fernando Ortiz has termed Cuba’s “intermeshed transculturation” and its hybrid religious forms. During his career, Bedia—who now lives and works in Miami—has traveled and continues to travel widely. His trips, however, are more aptly described as “pilgrimages” as they are motivated by his strong and long-standing connections to specific spiritual systems and practitioners—whether in his homeland, the Sonoran Desert of Mexico, the North American plains, the Amazonian rain forest, the Dominican countryside, or the Central African savanna. His early exposure to Espiritismo, his initiation into the highest level of Palo Monte, and his membership in the Native American Church are crucial to, and one might say inseparable from, his life and work.
Transcultural Pilgrim traces Bedia’s oeuvre over three decades, explicating in detail the many references to the religious systems, events, and personages that he depicts. Often punctuated with collaged historical photographs, Bedia’s paintings, drawings, and installations reflect a distinctive, bold, figural style. His two-dimensional work is often painted with his hands and fingers directly on paper or canvas. His artwork also features a strong narrative component, and it is not unusual for Bedia to incorporate text handwritten in Spanish, Kikongo, or Lakota.
The book includes insightful essays on Bedia’s involvement in Palo, his early and continuing visits to the indigenous Americas, his presentation of an alternative Caribbean history, and his connection to Central Africa by renowned scholars Judith Bettelheim and Janet Catherine Berlo. In addition it features an interview with the artist and his friend Alan Varela concerning their Central African travels and contributions by Cuban scholar Orlando Hernández and Lauren Derby, Associate Professor of History, UCLA.
11 x 8.5 inches, 216 pages
101 color and 9 b/w illustrations
ISBN 978-0-9778344-7-1, paper, $35