Almost Like Praying

Miguel Luciano has something in common with Lin-Manuel Miranda. Yes they are both artists. And further they are both proud of their Puerto Rican heritage. In their art, they both speak out for their Homeland. That is probably where the comparison ends. Lin-Manuel is the sensational Broadway creator of the musicals “In the Heights” and “Hamilton.” His latest work has been entirely focused on providing aid and relief for Puerto Rico after the U.S. territory was devastated by Hurricane Maria. His song, called “Almost Like Praying,” is influenced in part by Leonard Bernstein’s Maria in “West Side Story.” It was written and recorded to benefit hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico with proceeds benefiting The Hispanic Federation’s Unidos Disaster Relief Fund.  It also features a star-studded cast, including Marc Anthony, Ednita Nazario, Pedro Capo, Jennifer Lopez and Gloria Estefan. Miranda’s open criticism of the American government’s response to the crisis in Puerto Rico has gotten more than a flurry of media attention while the work of Miguel Luciano, a conceptual artist whose concerns about Puerto Rico, are waiting to be discovered.

Statehood by Miguel Luciano

In “Give Us The Vote,” an exhibition at ArtsWestchester’s White Plains gallery, Luciano displays a sculptural critique of the complicated relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. This year, 2017, marks the centennial of the law that granted Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship, but not the right to vote in a U.S. presidential election as long as they live in Puerto Rico. The tension in Luciano’s work is palpable – it takes the form of a klansman’s hood, which is decorated with recognizable symbols of the American and Puerto Rican flags. Says Luciano about his work:  “In spite of the fact that Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens for 100 years, and have participated in every major U.S. war…the people of Puerto Rico are denied the right to vote. We are a colony of the United States – we belong to, but are not completely part of the United States – and this is one of the factors that has always underscored our second-class citizenship.”  Luciano’s work has been internationally exhibited and praised.  He is featured in the permanent collections of The Smithsonian American Art Museum, DC; The Brooklyn Museum, NY; El Museo del Barrio, NY; the Newark Museum, NJ; and the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, PR. He is among a vocal group of artists who are using their art to make a difference. “Give Us The Vote” celebrates the women’s suffrage achievements, but at the same time points out the barriers to voting that affect many Americans. It’s a powerful display of artists using their pens, brushes, computers and props to talk about what citizens cherish the most – the right to vote.  And, if only the walls could talk, it would be quite an interesting conversation.

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