A small patch of sand, yet it holds so much

Kevin Quiles Bonilla

As a Puerto Rican artist living between the island and New York, Quiles Bonilla’s works focus specifically on the Puerto Rican diaspora, the long history of colonization, which dates back over 500 years, and the island’s current realities as a U.S. colony. Archival family photographs and materials such as sand, blue FEMA tarps, and beach towels printed with images of life after hurricane disasters, are incorporated into the works and juxtaposed with imagery and rhetoric associated with tourism. 

 Carryover (Blue tarp series) involves the artist pictured donning a blue tarp, engaging with various spaces throughout Puerto Rico and New York. The blue tarp is one of many that FEMA provided to people with damaged homes following the passing of Hurricane María in 2017, and many are still in use today, emblematic of the post-hurricane relief that never materialized.

In islotes (Spanish for “small islands”), small delicate photographs are piled up with sand to cover the figures, including multi-generations of Kevin and his family, creating small interconnected islands within each photograph. The imagery points to the formation of islands as a result of natural or political forces. 

Sand, as a natural material found in a politically charged site, becomes a record of time; it is also a surface, a container, and a layer of obfuscation. 

The installation While you dried in the sand uses custom beach towels layered with imagery of the island’s landscape in the aftermath of the hurricane. The design is inspired by the souvenir towels and other products made specifically for tourists visiting the island.