La Milagrosa: The Face of Hope
New photography exhibit in West Palm Beach explores common hopes through individual eyes.
WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. --- Hope blooms in a dusty Havana cemetery at the graveside of La Milagrosa, the “miraculous one.” A young wife yearning for a child opens her heart to the unofficial Cuban saint. A frail boy approaches the tomb clutching a single sunflower. A man hoping to be spared a lengthy prison term bows his head. The universal longing for a better life is reflected in their petitions and in the poignant black and white images captured by photographer Jacek Gancarz, which will be featured in the exhibit La Milagrosa: The Face of Hope, opening June 12 at the Armory Art Center.
Gancarz, whose career as a fine art and documentary photographer spans two decades, was drawn to the tomb of La Milagrosa with artistic hopes of his own. “What attracted me to this story was the ritual aspect of individual devotion,” the 44-year old Lake Worth resident explains, “I wanted to explore the realm where individual hopes and cultural ideals intertwine.”
Gancarz visited Cuba several times over a period of five years to gather the images of ordinary Cubans with extraordinary faith. According to local legend, 24-year-old Amelia Goyri de Adot died in childbirth in 1901. She was laid to rest with the body of her dead child between her feet. When she was exhumed some years later, word quickly spread that her body was found intact – a sign Roman Catholics believe indicates sanctity - and that her baby was now cradled in her arms. Her tomb soon became a shrine, visited by thousands who offer prayers and thanks along with flowers and gifts.
“In talking with the people I photographed, I discovered that their petitions and wishes were universal, but culturally unique to Cubans,” Gancarz says. Gancarz, who came to the U.S. from Poland when he was five years old, feels a special connection to the Cuban people and the immigrant experience. “Living in South Florida, you can’t help but be aware of what’s going on 90 miles away,” he adds. “I admire their culture - their perseverance, spirit, music - I feel a mutual bond.”
Gancarz was influenced by Irving Penn’s book Worlds In A Small Room, as well as by the photographs of Graciela Iturbide, Sebastião Salgado, Mary Ellen Mark and Seydou Keïta. He photographed and spoke with nearly 100 people, including practitioners of Santería, Christians, atheists and a Buddhist, in his visits to the tomb. About 20 informal portraits will be included in the exhibit, which will also feature captions with first-person quotes from his subjects.
La Milagrosa: Face of Hope will be on display at the Armory Art Center, 1700 Parker Avenue, West Palm Beach, FL 33401, through July 3. For more information on the exhibit, call
561-832-1776. To contact the photographer, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Armory Art Center is a not-for-profit community-based visual arts center providing opportunities for individual growth, self-expression, increased awareness and appreciation of the arts through participation in studio, exhibition, lecture and other educational programs. The Center seeks to educate, enrich and engage a diverse population through the "experience of art," and is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, and the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council. For more information on the Armory Art Center and call 561.832.1776 ext. 21 or visit the Armory’s website at www.armoryart.org.