Student Profile: Alberto Checa '21
When talking to Alberto Checa about his performance art, I was struck by his unbelievable level of intellectual maturity and creative curiosity. In the middle of our conversation, I asked what he plans on pursuing after graduation, as I assumed he was a senior. You can imagine my surprise when he casually responded, "Actually, I'm a freshman."
Alberto was born in Cuba and lived there for nine years before moving with his mother to Miami. His story permeates his artwork, and his daily life is his main source of inspiration. He explained, "I just draw [inspiration] from what I see every day. My mom wakes up at the crack of dawn and she comes back late at night…and then we have enough money to feed ourselves. I just draw inspiration from this idea of struggle and what it is like to be a lower-class person living in the American landscape and how hard it is to actually get to the top."
One of Alberto's pieces plays with the idea of what it means to be an immigrant in the United States in the context of factory and warehouse workers. This idea was especially personal to Alberto, as the warehouse was the exact setting in which his mother worked at the time, often required to perform labor-intensive tasks in a facility with no air conditioning. To mimic the conditions his mother endured, he dressed himself in all black and headed to a beach in Miami during the summer (needless to say, it was very hot). He then pushed a concrete cooler through the sand until he passed out; after seeing my shocked expression he quickly assured me: "That wasn't the goal!"
During our discussion, Alberto had time to think out loud and reflect on his performance. One unexpected aspect that intrigued him was the interaction of the waves with the imprint of the cooler being pushed along the shoreline. The final product was visible—it was clear that the cooler had been moved from one side of the beach to the other—but the evidence of his labor, of the exhaustive work put in to make that happen, was washed away, leaving no trace. “I feel like that's a really close connection to the idea of labor and immigrant families, and single mothers and people who come from that kind of background where labor's not really seen," he told me. "It's more something you have to just keep behind doors, something you just do on a regular day basis, just as a means of survival."
As he continued to share with me the different pieces he’s worked on and ideas he wants to explore in the future, it was clear to me that Alberto is only beginning his journey as an artist and is going to continue to evolve and make thought-provoking art during his time at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts. Personally, I'm excited to see what he creates in the future, as he finds new ways to push himself emotionally and physically to question the world around him.