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“El Libro Supremo de la Suerte” gathers photographs from Rose Marie Cromwell’s largest body of work to date, made in Havana over a span of seven years. The title translates as “The Supreme Book of Luck” and refers to photocopied booklets used to navigate the covert lottery in Havana. Cubans refer to these booklets, or charadas, to match everyday objects and experiences to numbers. Cromwell found parallels between this intentional look at everyday things and the way she makes images. “A turtle on the sidewalk, a can of red paint — these were simple moments that that were made more meaningful and monumental by the act of photographing them. It was a similar gesture to what people did when they picked lottery numbers,” she says. El Libro Supremo de la Suerte reflects the nonlinear narrative of Cromwell’s experience and suggests the randomness inherent not only to the lottery but also in life in this Caribbean city. “I came of age in Havana, not only as a person, but also an artist. This work is an homage to my experience of a specific geography. I am honoring the symbols and occurrences that have shaped my understanding of a place and time. I documented my relentless search for intimacy and spirituality, while navigating the politics of my presence in Cuba, as photographer and ultimately an outsider.”
This body of work conveys the photographer’s distinctive practice of describing a place by enmeshing herself in its culture. Cromwell disavows any sense of objectivity, guided by a lucid understanding that the photographer is as much part of what she depicts as the elements or people in front of the lens. In exploring the visual connections between numbers — exact and absolute units of measurements — and the mystical, wayward ways of luck, as embodied by friends and family performing for her camera, Cromwell offers a lyric homage to Cuba, the place that’s shaped her practice and that, moreover, continues defying expectations and interpretations.
Rose Marie Cromwell is a photographic and video artist based in Miami, whose work explores the effects of globalization on human interaction and social politics. She is also interested in the tenuous space between the political and the spiritual. Cromwell received a BFA degree from Maryland Institute College of Art in Art Photography and Cultural Studies in 2005, and an MFA from Syracuse University in Art Photography in 2013. Cromwell is a recipient of the Fulbright Research Grant, the Lightwork Community Darkroom Residency Fellowship, and a Syracuse University full ride graduate fellowship. She has had solo exhibitions at the Diablo Rosso gallery and the Antitesis Art Space in Panama City, and participated in the 1st Biennale del Sur in Panama City, and Prizm Art Fair in Miami. Cromwell’s artwork has been published online and in print in a variety of international magazines, including the 2014, 2015, 2016 Vice Photography Issues, Camera Austria, Time Lightbox, ARC Magazine, Musee Magazine, The Oxford American, and The New Yorker. Her first book, El Libro Supremo de la Suerte, will be published by TIS books in 2018. The dummy for this book was shortlisted for the Mack First Book Prize in 2017. The book has been reviewed in Book Forum, PDN Magazine, Wallpaper, and Spot Magazine.
Artist’s website: http://www.rosemariecromwell.com