Artist María Martínez-Cañas Sheds Light on Her Photographic Path in Conversation at CHC

by Sarah Block, Library Communications

Artist María Martínez-Cañas

Artist María Martínez-Cañas.

You may have viewed the Quince Sellos Cubanos exhibition at Richter Library without realizing, at least at first, that you’re actually looking at photography. This is not an uncommon response to the style of artist María Martínez-Cañas, nor an unwelcomed one. In visiting the 15 iconic scenes depicting Cuba’s past, reimagined from the artist’s childhood stamp collection, you’re encouraged to take them apart as a way of understanding how they connect and the complex narrative that they together form.

“Photographs can be more than a way of recording the world. They can also be a tool for understanding who you are,” Martínez-Cañas explained during a November 19 event at the Cuban Heritage Collection, where she provided a closer look at how her unique style has helped her explore history, memory, and identity, among many other themes, during a conversation with professor J. Tomás López.

Martínez-Cañas is well known for pushing the boundaries beyond a traditional photograph, experimenting with a variety of materials and formats—analog and digital, color and black-and-white, camera-less and camera-base—in order to capture the image she intends. “It’s ideas,” she explained, “that drive my use of the medium, rather than the other way around.”

J. Thomás López, University of Miami Professor of Art and Art History.

J. Thomás López, University of Miami Professor of Art and Art History

López, a professor of art and art history who serves as head of Electronic Media and Photography at UM, navigated the discussion with topics spanning the course of Martínez-Cañas’ winding and prolific journey, from her early life and fascination with photography in Puerto Rico to the rise of her career and evolution of her work, which she carries out today in Miami.

“I had a curiosity of wanting to understand how the medium works from an early age, developing my first role of film when I was eight years old. I asked my parents not to park the car in the garage because I wanted to use it as a dark room—and they didn’t!”

Her experimentation with photography in nontraditional forms began while studying at the prestigious Philadelphia College of Art, continuing at the Art Institute of Chicago, where she earned her MFA. She explained that when a Fulbright-Hays grant then brought her to Seville, Spain, she became interested in using the craft as a way to explore her Cuban identity.

“At the time I was trying to figure out what makes me Cuban. I was born in Cuba, but I never had the opportunity to grow up in the country in which I was born…I developed a project working with the maps that Christopher Columbus used to discover Cuba as a foundation for my photographic project. I thought if I used these maps, I will find my background and where I come from and I will connect more with what makes me Cuban. It changed my life.”

After moving to Miami, Martínez-Cañas embarked on the two-year project resulting in Quince Sellos Cubanos (1992). The first series of 15, comprising the 15 gelatin silver prints currently on display at the library, was donated to the Cuban Heritage Collection by Alan Gordich in 2015 along with the limited-edition portfolio Páginas de Viaje (1996).

Quinces Sellos Cubanos will remain on view through spring 2016.

Photos by Andrew Innerarity.


DVD Picks: Thanksgiving on TV

by Terri Robar, Learning & Research Services

You probably know that our DVD collection has movies but did you realize that we also have television shows? To help you get into the holiday mood, we’ve chosen some favorite Thanksgiving episodes from these series. Happy Turkey Day!

The following TV series are a part of Richter Library’s DVD collection. In addition to the thousands of DVDs spanning comedy, drama, sci-fi, horror, documentary, and other genres, UM Libraries also houses film-related materials such as screenplays, soundtracks, musical scores, and original book titles. Search the catalog to browse music and print resources related to these films.

Buffy Cover

Buffy Summers and the rest of the gang get a Thanksgiving surprise when the spirit of a Native American warrior returns to the land of the living.

On Thanksgiving, Bart gets into a fight with the family and runs away from home before sharing a turkey dinner with a group of homeless people at a soup kitchen and learning the true meaning of the holiday in the process.

Diane is one of the few graduate students selected to spend Thanksgiving with her professor and his family in the “Pilgrim tradition.”

Dozens of Chinese stowaways are discovered in a container ship in California; Toby looks to pick a fight over school prayer with a recess appointment; Thanksgiving at the White House sees C.J. in charge of turkeys and Charlie looking for the ultimate carving knife.

Frasier, Martin, and Niles fly to Boston for Thanksgiving. Frasier and Lilith go together for an interview with the principal of an exclusive boarding school, hoping to gain a spot for Frederick. They are so dogged that the principal agrees to admit Frederick if they both promise that he’ll never lay eyes on either of them again.

It’s Thanksgiving in a few days but the family nature of the holidays will be difficult for many to achieve. Don refuses to join Betty and the children with her family for the holidays, he balking at the notion of the long drive and short time to spend there.

The Conner family steps it up for this Thanksgiving episode after Roseanne wins the lottery. Roseanne and Jackie’s mother, Bev, is outraged at the idea of a gay couple adopting children and, in the middle of a dinnertime diatribe, accidentally outs her own attraction to women.

What do a pack of genetically-modified murderous turkeys, a Braveheart parody, Sally Struthers, and a starving Ethiopian child have in common? They’re all part of this deliciously wicked Thanksgiving episode, which became an instant classic for the subversive series.

The gang relives their worst Thanksgivings, including Joey getting a turkey stuck on his head, Chandler’s parents getting divorced, and Monica accidentally cutting off Chandler’s toe. It all ends with Monica with a turkey on her head, with sunglasses and a fez, shimmying.

Carol Hathaway faces an ethical dilemma when a patient admits that he, and not his friend, was driving the car that ran a red light and killed a pedestrian. It’s Thanksgiving and the doctors treat an animal rights activist who was attacked by the turkey he was trying to save. Doug Ross is going to the Bahamas with Linda Farrell and he is very much feeling like a kept man. Carter has to treat a transgender woman who has now reached an age where she can no longer pass as a woman.

Rita prepares a big Thanksgiving meal while Dexter and Debra conduct investigations. Dexter stops by Arthur’s house for a visit and realizes that though Arthur is in appearance the happy family man, he is in fact terrorizing his family. According to Arthur’s son Jonah, they are all regularly beaten. Jonah is afraid to confront his father and invites Dexter for Thanksgiving dinner.

House and the team take on the case of James Sidas, an exceptionally brilliant physicist and author who traded his successful career for a job as a courier. For the ailing patient, intelligence is a miserable burden that has prompted depression and addiction, and this, coupled with his myriad unusual symptoms, nearly stumps the team. Meanwhile, the doctors at Princeton Plainsboro wrestle with strained personal relationships on the eve of Thanksgiving.

Join Us for a Conversation with María Martínez-Cañas and J. Tomás López


“La Quinta Columna Te Espía” in Quince Sellos Cubanos.

University of Miami Cuban Heritage Collection will present a conversation with María Martínez-Cañas, artist of Quince Sellos Cubanos, and J. Tomás López, professor of Art and Art History, at the Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion on Thursday, November 19, 2015, at 6:30 p.m.

Martínez-Cañas reimagined iconic images from the Cuban stamp collection she’s had since childhood. A limited-edition series of her renowned portfolio, Quince Sellos Cubanos, is now on view at Richter Library. The exhibition features 15 gelatin silver prints alongside the original Cuban stamps that inspired her work.

Martínez-Cañas will discuss her work with Professor López, who is also head of the Electronic Media and Photography area at UM. As a photographer, Professor López’s prints are part of several major collections, including those of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Gallery of American Arts, and the International Museum of Photography.

Please join us for a reception and conversation with María Martínez-Cañas and J. Tomás López on her work and exploration of history, memory, and identity.

The exhibition will run through December 2015.

This event is free and open to the public.

RSVP to Ivett Uria at 305-284-4026 or

Please click map image below to enlarge. Contact us at 305-284-4026 or with questions about directions and parking.8608e468-9c3c-47d6-aaa6-cc3685281391