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Ask a ¡NUEVOlution! Artist | Mario Petrirena


We are pleased to introduce the artists who have contributed works of art to ¡NUEVOlution! These talented artists represent the NUEVO South, as well as Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and many other countries. Their work expresses their experiences, stories and inspirations, from their home countries to their new homes in the South. 

¡NUEVOlution! Artist Mario PetrirenaMeet ¡NUEVOlution! Artist Mario Petrirena

You moved to America when you were only eight years old. How do you show aspects of Cuba through your artwork when you haven’t been in the country very long?

Children absorb what their environment offers. I was raised by Cuban parents that were very proud of their heritage. I absorbed their appreciation for their country and culture with food, music, and language. It all became a part of who I am and in turn, it is reflected in my work.

You said you're inspired by discoveries in junk yards or yard sales. What attracts you to such items? How do you create stories around those objects? Do you talk to people about them or do you create the stories yourself?

Because we came to the United States with basically only the clothes on our backs, family photos and objects are very precious to me. Objects carry their history with them; I did not have this history and I wanted and needed it. I found history in these objects that reflect the passage of time; objects that carry memory with them. I cannot always tell you what attracts me to these objects. It is often after the work is done that I realize where the attraction came from. An example of this is a beat-up tricycle I used once in an installation. I had a deep attraction to the object and only years later did I see a very similar tricycle in an old photo of my younger brother, Jose. The photo had been taken shortly after we arrived from Cuba, and I am sure the tricycle was something my father found in the trash. I try not talk to people about my work until they’ve tried to understand it on their own. It is essential that the viewer experience the work without any preconceived ideas that often limit the work.

What have photographs, heirlooms, and such taught you about your own heritage?

I rarely use original family photos because I have so little of them. Mostly I use photos I’ve rescued from yard and estate sales. They too carry their own history because they were important to somebody once, and they are to me when I repurpose them. These photos teach me the importance of heritage, memory, family, and history while at the same time, they remind me that they are only objects. In the end it is about surviving and passing it on to those we care about.

What do you want people to walk away with after viewing your work in our NUEVOlution exhibit?

Most of my work ask more questions that it gives answers. If the viewer leaves thinking, I’m happy. In these particular pieces I hope that the viewer sees themselves in the work, that they are reminded just how interconnected we humans are. Our differences are small, if we take the time to examine who we really are.

About Mario Petrirena
Mario Petrirena is a Cuban-born American artist living and working in Atlanta. After receiving a BA in Fine Art at the University of Florida receiving his BA in Fine Art and attending the School for American Craftsman at the Rochester Institute of Technology, he began working in a variety of mediums including collage and Clay, and has continued to use these art forms and techniques for the past twenty years. He has won several awards including the 2006 Pollock Krasner Grant, and his work is included in several museum collections including The High Museum of Art, Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, and The Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art in Ft. Lauderdale.


Be sure to check back each week for new stories and insights on ¡NUEVOlution! Latinos and the New South. You can also watch videos showcasing the stories of Latinos and the New South on your YouTube channel. 

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¡NUEVOlution! Latinos and the New South is on display now and includes complementary programming throughout its 13-month duration. You can see a list of all our programs on the Museum calendar.