Apryl Miller is a NYC artist who I’ve come to know as a result of my latest novel, Hungry Ghosts: she’s one of the many generous artists who have prepared a piece of art based on the book as part of an art exhibition. And what a piece of art it is!
Apryl suggested early on doing a piece that incorporated items that Cubans can’t easily get, because of the embargo; that became her inspiration. She wrote:
“I have been really struck by how the people of Cuba have existed with the shortages brought about by sanctions. I knew there were no new cars and that it was difficult to get parts and that the buildings were somewhat decrepit, but that was about the extent of it. Reading your book has really opened my eyes. I’m going to be adding small 3-D objects to my painting and these will be pieces that are symbolic of Cuban life, even if it means objects of absence. I’ve taken notes as I’ve read and these are some of my ideas-coffee, chocolate, crosses, chickens, crows, apples, chop sticks, a bowl of rice, etc. I am interested in any ideas you can add to this. I have found some of these objects by going to miniature doll house stores.”
Since part of the plot of Hungry Ghosts sees Inspector Ramirez burning Heaven money and tiny paper cars and other items he’d obtained in Havana’s Chinatown, I suggested those. And look what she came up with –I think it’s absolutely brilliant!
She even added a tiny baseball bat and glove for Ramirez’s son, Edel, and pieces of a little girl’s barrette to represent his daughter, Estella.
But buried between the bright scattered lines of a piece that reminds me of a map of Havana (oh, those happy, cheery colours) are also words of loss and sorrow: among others, The Special Period, in which so many Cubans starved; Mazorra, a mental institution where political dissidents were jailed; Peligrosas, the perjorative name Fidel Castro used to describe “dangerous” prostitutes, and Hungry Ghosts, those spirits who can never be sated and must wander throughout eternity.
Apryl is an extremely accomplished artist: she’s been profiled in Hyperallergic, Salon.com, Milk Made of Milk Studios, the Saks Fifth Ave. Blog, E-ratio Poetry Magazine, Konstvarlden and her work has been showcased on MTV and HGTV. (In fact, I’ve seen her apartment featured on HGTV: she turned it into an installation. It was pretty amazing to meet her as a result of this project and immediately recognize her work and realize I’d seen some of it before!)
She has collaborated with Zoe Kravitz, Saks Fifth Ave, Working Mother, Lee Jeans and Glamour Magazine. Her work has been featured in ASOS Magazine, The Sunday Times Style Magazine, Time Out New York and Ser Padres. A popular lecturer, she has spoken extensively on her work to The Princeton Historical Society, Docents of NYC, Bates Technical College, The University of Missouri, the City College of New York, and most notably, Open House New York. She’s a graduate of FIT and resides in NYC.
You can check out her vibrant, complex, and layered work online or see this piece in person at the Hungry Ghosts art exhibition at Cake and Shake in Hintonburg. It will be on display throughout the month of June. (It’s called “Crows and Peligrosas,” and it’s priced at $2500 USD — guaranteed to be a collector’s piece.)