The family is unsure of the exact date, but a few years ago, Misleidys Francisca Castillo Pedroso began painting muscular male figures, in various states of undress, on construction paper. After cutting the figures out, she would install them methodically all over the apartment, using precisely cut pieces of packing tape, spaced evenly around the figures’ edge. Some of the men were a few inches tall while others approached eight feet, stretching from floor to ceiling. Then came the body parts—severed hands, feet, and heads floating free. One day, she started painting faces and bodies with cut-away views that revealed brightly colored abstract tissue and organs. Recently, she began painting female figures with bikini outfits, and groupings of heads that are joined together depicting generations, twins, families, or some other relationship. Her work is constantly evolving.
Misleidys Francisca Castillo Pedroso was born in Güines, a small town near Havana, Cuba, on September 28, 1985. The youngest of two children, Pedroso has been deaf since birth and does not speak. She communicates with her immediate family through a series of rudimentary signs, but those exchanges are limited to her most basic needs and emotional states. She spends most of her time at the apartment in the company of her family.
Politically, economically, and socially, Cuba has been isolated for decades. As a result, Misleidys has experienced a kind of double isolation and produced an oeuvre that is almost entirely influenced by her internal state, the confines of the family’s apartment, and the social contact she has within its walls. No one knows why Misleidys began painting or her perception of the work she is producing, but her mother has occasionally observed her daughter standing in front of the drawings, looking at them and gesturing as if she were speaking to them. Misleidys looks at her paintings in the eyes, as though she recognizes them—as one recognizes a friend or someone they have known in this world.
Perhaps they are protective beings that she produces to watch over the life of her small family, or playmates with whom she can converse when others are not around. Maybe they are manifestations of less innocent fantasies. Whatever the true nature of this work may be, Misleidys is clearly breathing life into her figures, creating beings that exist in the space between our world and her own.
Published in conjunction with the exhibition, “Misleidys Francisca Castillo Pedroso: Cut and Flex,” University of Kentucky, Albert B. Chandler Hospital, May 2015–December, 2015.