Paul Marcus: woodcut portfolio
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Yearning to Breathe Free,
1999. A portfolio of 12 woodcuts in an edition of 25
This body of work is inspired by Rosa, a young Mayan woman from Guatemala whom I came to know during the time I taught at Bronx Community College.
In 1992 at age 22, Rosa fled her village with its 19th century technology, where she had lived 17 years, in a feudal state, where the 20th century breaks in only with Army helicopters, guns and tanks, light bulbs and a single telephone; where adulthood is not defined as a rite of passage from one age to another but is measured by the amount of coffee beans you can pick.
She grew up in a community that under normal circumstances would mean a harsh existence; add to this decades of Civil War, and the circumstances ensure human disaster.
The war would last 36 years, until 1996, and would claim 200,000 lives, among them 42,275 civilians and 6,159 "disappeared."
The impact was especially cruel on the Mayan population; despite making up nearly two thirds of Guatemala's 11 million people, they remain discriminated against; they are denied equal rights and live in constant fear of repression by an elite group of oligarchs.
The repression has not stopped. Recently, Bishop Juan Gerardi was beaten to death with a concrete block after submitting a Human Rights study that showed that 93% of the violence was attributed to the Guatemalan Army, Police and Death Squads.
Only recently, due to another report by a "Truth Commission" that confirmed the Gerardi report, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, did President Clinton apologize begrudgingly for the CIA's role in the Civil War.
Since 1954, when the CIA assisted in the overthrow of the democratically elected President, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, the United States has had a hand in the training (School of the Americas) and arming of the Guatemalan military, and has economically supported successive governments that have systematically violated people's rights and lives.
Even though the United States cut off military aid in 1990, due to the number of unresolved cases of human rights abuse in Guatemala, the U. S. Senate Intelligence sub-Committee revealed that the CIA has continued to provide between $1 million to $3.5 million per year to Guatemalan Military Intelligence. The U. S. Senate has just voted to continue funding for the School of the Americas.
The CIA still sits on documents that should be made public. We require our own truth commission, for as Bishop Gerardi said, "Opening ourselves to the truth and bringing ourselves face to face with our personal and collective responsibility isn't something optional...It is an unavoidable requirement of all people and societies that seek to humanize themselves and be free..."
At a time when the United States has taken a major role in pressing for military intervention and calling for war crime tribunals in Serbia, we hear next to nothing pertaining to injustices in Chile, El Salvador, Haiti, Argentina and throughout Central and South America.
Despite this, or maybe unaware of this, Rosa came to the United States in 1992 to seek peace, freedom, and an opportunity to pursue some kind of happiness,
only to find out how difficult the struggle in America would be for one labeled 'illegal'.
Paul Marcus, 1999
Yearning to Breath Free
[hand colored] 9 x 12"
[hand colored] 9 x 9 1/4"
In the Shadow
[two color block] 7 1/4 x 9 3/8"
12 x 9"
[2 blocks] 9 1/4 x 11 3/4"
[hand colored] 11 7/8 x 9"
[2 blocks] 13 3/4 x 7 1/4"
11 7/8 x 9 1/8"
The First Boss
[hand colored] 11 7/8 x 9"
The Promised Land
[2 blocks] 13 5/8 x 7 1/8"
Couldn't Afford It
[2 blocks] 15 1/2 x 7 1/4"
[hand colored] 12 x 9 1/4"
Complete portfolio: $6000
Please note: All images in Graphic Witness are for personal enjoyment or educational use. Any other use is prohibited.
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