Cultura y conciencia

Family Spices with Cuban Dominican Artist Julisa Mugica

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Artist Julisa Mugica at her exhibition,  Especias Familiares (Family Spices) /Photo: Ricky and Nelson Santana.

Artist Julisa Mugica at her exhibition, Especias Familiares (Family Spices)/Photo: Ricky and Nelson Santana.

By Nelson Santana
October 1, 2018 | Lea en español

Especias Familiares (Family Spices) is an exceptional art exhibition by Cuban Dominican artist Julisa Marie Mugica. In this interview, Mugica discusses her interests, aspirations, inspirations, and also the reason behind Especias Familiares.

Born and raised in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Mugica decided her first art exhibition would be on the women who have shaped her very existence. Among these women, one will find familiar faces in the form of strong female figures that include Celia Cruz, Frida Kahlo, and the Virgin Mary. Always one to remain rooted by acknowledging her heritage, Mugica also pays homage to other women who have molded Julisa Mugica’s life: her mother, Marisela Mugica; her grandmother, Nora Chirino Luzbert; and aunt, Jenny Jiménez. In her own words, these three women shaped her understanding of the world and her own life.

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This room is filled with the women that seasoned me and that is something that I really wanted to really make a big deal of here because in our lives we do have people that we were raised with and they helped make us who we are. Kind of sculpt us into our first foundation

Interview with Julisa Mugica

Mugica used different herbs and spices to create several of the works of art on display. Soon as one walks in, one is met with an aroma of spices and herbs.

Individuals, especially those who grew up in a Latino household, will immediately feel right at home as they pass by the guess book and wall decorated with spices and herbs. Cilantro, parsley, red chili peppers, turmeric, sazón with achiote and adobo are among the familiar homely aromas that one smells upon walking into the art gallery, which is housed at La Casa de Educación y Cultura Latina, Inc. This particular wall is minimalistic and is not actually part of the exhibition. However, the wall of aromas frames the exhibition nicely. Mugica is a bold artist and this particular wall demonstrates it. Mugica explained to ESENDOM that the framed spices were not initially part of the exhibition, yet she somehow managed to convince the group in charge of the exhibit space to let her decorate the wall—a bold move.

Especias familiares (Family Spices) includes works of art based on artist Frida Kahlo, la guacherna Celia Cruz, Tex Mex sensation Selena, and Christian icon La Virgen del Sagrado Corazón Amarillo (Virgin of the Sacred Yellow Heart), the virgin to whom Mugica’s mother prays.

Cooking utensils such as Mugica’s Dominican grandfather’s pot and her mother’s pilón comprise part of the exhibition. One of the more sentimental pieces is a clay vase created by her, her parents, and brother William Mugica. Her father Frank Mugica notes:

These were pieces of clay that Julisa brought home one day and she just wanted each and every one of us to grab and do a grip on it. She wound up putting it together and it turned out to be a be a beautiful vase and it represents unity and it represents family

Especias familiares (Family Spices) is on view in Mugica’s hometown of Perth Amboy at La Casa de Educación y Cultura Latina, Inc. and is sponsored by the City of Perth Amboy and Mayor Wilda Díaz.

Check out our walking video interview of Julisa Marie Mugica’s exhibition, Especias familiares (Family Spices) to experience the exhibit for yourself. However, we encourage you to see it in person at:

La Casa de Educación y Cultura Latina, Inc.

339 Reade St.

Perth Amboy, NJ 08861

William Mugica discusses the painting of his mother