April 5, 2003 - Personal Web Site: Artist Esther Parada served in the Peace Corps in Bolivia in 1964

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Artist Esther Parada served in the Peace Corps in Bolivia in 1964

Artist Esther Parada served in the Peace Corps in Bolivia in 1964

About the Artist

Esther Parada is Professor in the School of Art & Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Widely recognized as an artist, writer, and educator, Parada has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and her photoworks have been exhibited and collected in permanent museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of FIne Arts, Houston. Her photo-text projects have been published in books and anthologies, including the critical essay "C/Overt Ideology: Two Images of Revolution" in The Contest of Meaning (The MIT Press, 1989). She has also written for the publications Exposure and Aperture and Afterimage.

Esther Parada's work has frequently involved the political, historical, and social relations between the United States and Latin America. Her long-standing concern with Latin-American peoples may be traced to 1964 when she was in the Peace Corps in Bolivia, teaching art and photography. In 1980 she was an artist-in-residence in Mexico CIty with the Mexican Council of Photography, and in 1984 she participated in the Third Latin American Photography Colloquium in Havana, Cuba.

Parada's multi-media piece "To Make All Mankind Acquaintances," a detailed examination of the Keystone-Mast Collection in the context of analyzing U.S. images of Latin America, is available on a CD-ROM titled "Three Works," published by the California Museum of Photography, Riverside. Her website "Transplant: A Tale of Three Continents" is part of "La Finca/The Homestead," a website project created and organized by Paul Hertz (Northwestern University) on the theme of colonization in cyberspace, for the University of Valencia, Spain.

For e-mail communication and/or information about the purchase of the offset lithography publication "Define/Defy the Frame" contact: Esther Parada.

Artist's Statements


"The Monroe Doctrine" series grew out of a deep personal involvement with Latin America, dating from my work as a Peace Corps volunteer art teacher in Bolivia in the mid-60s, supplemented by extensive travel and exchange with photographic colleagues in Mexico, Nicaragua and Cuba during the 1980s. These experiences led me, among other things, to question the interventionist role of my country (the United States) in relation to the rest of the hemisphere; and to explore its historical roots as manifest in words and images.

A 1927 photograph of U.S. Marines in Ocotal, Nicaragua, training members of the Nicaraguan National Guard, represented for me the paradigm image of North-South power relationships. Enlarged, pixilated, fragmented, and replicated within the shape of hemispheric maps, that photograph became the matrix image for the 1987-88 installations of The Monroe Doctrine, Part One: Theme and Variations, as well as the 1990 offset publication Define/Defy the Frame.

I see this matrix image functioning as a kind of low-resolution warp on an electronic loom, into which higher-resolution details of text and photographs are woven. The visibility of these elements shifts according to the position of the viewer. Just as the overall image is indecipherable at close range; likewise our absorption with the day-to-day details or "current events" of our lives means that we may fail to see - or are discouraged from seeing - the historical pattern of which they are a part....

That pattern is articulated within "The Monroe Doctrine, Part One" in a series of official government texts. The text documentation for this piece is on a linked page.

The Monroe Doctrine, Part One: Theme and Variations (1987)

Technical Information:
This work was created in 1987 using MacPaint, SuperPaint, and PosterMaker software on a MacPlus computer. Images were scanned using a Thunderscan unit mounted inside an Imagewriter (printer). The wall installation was composed of 42 laserprinted panels (each 8" x 10"), mounted in 6 columns and 7 rows to form a piece that is 48" x 70"

"The Monroe Doctrine" at Centro Cultural de la Raza, San Diego (1988) During a one-week residency at the Centro Cultural de la Raza in San Diego I worked interactively with artists and Central American solidarity groups in the community to expand my original installation. Among the newly introduced elements was a current New York Times photograph depicting U.S. troops heading for Honduras to counter the alleged Soviet threat in Nicaragua. Repetition of a U.S. soldier's silhouette echoed the lineup of Nicaraguan soldiers in Ocotal - North American and Latin American "grunts" fed like cartridges in an ammunition belt, into the military machine....


This work can be seen as modification and elaboration of "The Monroe Doctrine, Part One." The head of a Nicaraguan soldier from the original matrix image proliferates - an epidemic of militarization - throughout the hemisphere. New elements woven into this framework represent contrasting narratives: testimony from the U. S. government (Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North and Congressional players in the Iran-Contra hearings of the mid-80s) and the stories of two women with intimate experience of the Nicaraguan revolution. Another new image depicts the 1984 closing of The School of the Americas in Panama (subsequently transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia) which represents for me a latter-day variant of the Ocotal image of 1927 - both functioned as sites for U.S. training of Latin American military personnel.

2-3-4-D SERIES (1991-92)

All of the works reproduced here are part of a 1991-92 series called "2-3-4-D: Digital Revisions in Time and Space," in which I use digital technology to challenge and complicate historical stereotypes. Specifically they are responses to the ubiquitous image of Christopher Columbus (as New World "discoverer") which I encountered in stereographs of Latin America during a 1991 residency at the California Museum of Photography, University of California, Riverside.

This was part of an NEA Visual Artists Forum project, "Society and Perception: New Imaging Technologies," curated by Ed Earle at the California Museum of Photography, Riverside, California. Participants in this residency project were invited to make use of the museum's resources, notably the Keystone-Mast Collection of historical stereographs.


The text documentation for this piece is on a linked page.

AT THE MARGIN (1991-92)

The text documentation for this piece is on a linked page.


The diptych "Native Fruits" juxtaposes a historical engraving of the "conquis-
tadores" landing at LaCruz (Cuba) with a panorama of contemporary figures digitally assembled from the streets of Havana, Cuba, where I photographed
them in the 1980s.

Panel #1: 21" x 41" inkjet print

Panel #2: 21" x 41" inkjet print

The text documentation for this piece is on a linked page.


The diptych "Friends and Deliverers," while based on an image of U.S. soldiers in Cuba at the time of the Spanish-American war, reflects an ongoing pattern of U.S. invasion of Third World countries, rationalized as democratic salvation from demonic Old World or Communist forces. In this, as well as the At the Margin sequence, the uniformed Young Pioneers from contemporary Cuba are intended to celebrate the militant pride and racial fraternity of this revolutionary social order, while at the same time questioning its potential for rigidity...

Panel #1: 21" x 41" inkjet print

Panel #2: 21" x 41" inkjet print

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