Graduation Year

2005

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Art History

Major Professor

David Wright.

Co-Major Professor

David Doris

Keywords

African art history, Caribbean studies, Santeria, Spiritism, Anthropology

Abstract

For eighty-six-year-old Tampa, Florida, native Dolores Lolita Rodriguez, yard decorating was more than just decoration; it was a form of therapy. Her yard was a massive assemblage of found objects arranged into a personalized visual vocabulary that involved honoring the deceased, her Spanish identity, and local spiritual practices. The yard also upheld a unique conception of beauty. Her creations were an articulation of, and remedy for, a life of tremendous loss. They were also the cause of her stroke and confinement to rehabilitation in November 2002. Dolores property was visually cognate with a mode of yard decoration, called the African-American yard show, which defends the home from evil spirits and honors the deceased. Although Dolores was not African-American, but of Spanish-American descent, it was important to explore possible influences from the local African-American community.

It also became necessary to interact with Caribbean religious practices present in her west Tampa neighborhood in order to understand her coded yard. After a year and a half of meetings with Dolores in her rehabilitation center room, it was determined that no academic paradigm or any one religious practice could be used to explain her world. Dolores did not abide by any specific set of rules other than her own. Her daily act of decoration was a make-do phenomenon. She improvised with found objects and elements of local spiritual practices creating a bricolage of meaning. She surrounded herself with an autobiographical sketch of her past, something she found to be beautiful. Her twenty-five years of hard work were completely destroyed in May 2004, by her long-lost grandson. The property was erased of everything Dolores en put up for sale. Dolores Lolita Rodriguez died of a heart attack in her rehabilitation center bed in November 2005.

All that remains are her words and the photographs of her work as they have been presented in this project. I do hope that my research serves her legacy well.

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