Hold These Truths

November 13, 2017 - March 14, 2018

Shaun Leonardo


Self-portrait Azua (Charon), 2010/2012

sign & metallic enamel on MDF cutout; acrylic latex on painted wall. 

Painting: 64 x 36 x 3/4 in.  

Wall installation: 12ft x 12 ft

Courtesy the artist and Praxis International Art, New York

Inspired by “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Díaz, the works within Self-portrait Azua take their name from a particular region in the Dominican Republic vividly described in the novel as being hell on earth.  Leonardo, also of Dominican descent, imagines his heroic self-portraits as living within this state of impeding doom. These warriors, distressed or defeated, never reach true fulfillment of heroic status. Bold yet ineffective, they pose the question, “What is a hero when he has no one to save?”

The invocation of the myth of the Ferryman Charon in the current installation is related mostly to the passage of refugees to the United States, linking the realities of economic hardship for these immigrants to the corruption of the dream of America as the land of prosperity.  In Greek mythology, those that were not given a coin upon death (typically placed in the deceased mouth or on their closed eyes) were left behind, adrift in the River Styx for eternity (read as purgatory.)  This fraught figure, without the means to pay his way, is doomed by circumstance, no matter how valiant his struggle.