My project “Celdas” (Prison Cells) seeks to address the particular experience of alienation, fear and displacement suffered by Hondurans as a consequence of the unspeakable violence that has taken over much of the Central American region, and as undocumented immigrants in contemporary United States, triggered especially by extreme immigration laws and anti-immigrant sentiment.
An important aspect of my work is the contradiction between cultural assimilation and the persistence of cultural identity and memory. The presence of specific objects such as CDs, flowers, candles, and others, solicit a kind of intimacy with the most private aspects of lived experience. The objects have the potential to suggest cultural specificity, yet their disarming effect lies in provoking a somatic response of a viewer’s previous experience. By bringing natural elements such as tree leaves, sand, or other found materials from the area into my constructed stages I recall the individual’s capacity of make-do.
The vernacular spaces introduce a dimension of pathos as the subjects recall the need for sanctuary and allude to coping mechanisms that arise when the they have to learn to coexist within violent circumstances. To further the sense of poignancy, the playscapes constructed in these spaces allude to actual violent crimes in Honduras, even memorializing some of the victims caught up in the endless cycle. The juxtaposition of Catholic and Maya iconography evokes the legacy of Spanish colonialism while also reminding us that the history of violence in Central American societies, has deep historic roots that predate the Conquest.
Alma Leiva is a Honduran born artist, who moved to the United States at the age of fourteen. Leiva received a BFA from the University of Florida in 2007 and an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally in venues such as The Invisible Dog Art Center, Brooklyn, NY; Hasted Kraeutler, New York, NY; Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, Philadelphia, PA; The Center on Contemporary Art, Seattle, WA; Houston Center for Photography, Houston, TX; Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, FL; David Castillo Gallery and The Museum of Art and Design, Miami, FL; Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, New Palz, NY; The Snite Museum of Art, South Bend, IN; The Center for Photography at Woodstock, New York; Balzer Projects, Basel, Switzerland; and Positions, Berlin, Germany, among others.
She has completed residencies at Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT; Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Smyrna Beach, FL; The Center for Photography at Woodstock, NY; The MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, NH and Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, NY.
Her work has been featured in numerous publications including Time Magazine’s Lightbox, Photo District News, The Huffington Post, Newsweek, Miami New Times, El Nuevo Herald, ArtPulse Magazine, and The Washington Post. She has received grants from New York Foundation for the Arts, College Art Association, The Beth Block Foundation, National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, Miami Dade-County, South Florida Cultural Consortium and Foundation for Contemporary Arts, to name a few. Leiva is represented by balzer projects in Switzerland and lives and works in Miami, Florida.