Journeys into the Crossroads | Terence Tavares (first of three articles)

Several weeks ago, I made my way over to the Massachusetts Alliance for Portuguese Speakers (MAPS) and, though the kind staff members gathered around the doorway to greet, I felt magnetically lifted and pulled to the back of the room. I could not place the exact need to move quickly through the crowd but it weighed heavily in my conscience. Rushed words, greetings, and awkward excuses for not having time to hang my coat came out of my mouth, but they were more like catapults or miniature islands allowing me to glide through the air over the heads of the art admirers and arrive to the area where three prints were vibrating. Did people not hear them buzzing, I thought? Partially raised by dogs and taught to recognize high-pitched frequencies in canine language from an early age (I always know when a television is on in even a larger home, even on mute, for instance), I let the fact that nobody seemed to hear this buzzing slide. The origin of this sound was a series called “Journeys” and that’s when I knew that Edna DaCosta, one of the fantastic domestic violence prevention and support workers of MAPS, not only graciously invited me to an event to raise consciousness on the roles that we all must play in the struggle to prevent domestic violence and be aware of the support structures in tact at MAPS, but also into the work of a dynamic artist—an artist of the crossroads—Terence Tavares.


First, I spoke with Dulce, another member of the domestic violence prevention and support team, and, seeing my state instantly, she assured me that Tavares was on his way: ‘já volta, tranquilo meu bem, ele chega.’ I didn’t know that the connection to the work was so visible. And then, when Executive Director Paulo Pinto called all of the men up to the front to make a pledge to join the cause for peace and respect and health relationships, I found myself standing right next to Tavares. We had not yet been introduced but we recognized each other instantly. Just after the photograph and Paulo Pinto’s heartfelt discussion on the importance of linguistically and culturally-sensitive support for survivors of domestic violence, Tavares brought me over to discuss his work.

terence interview

For the most part, Tavares’s work involves woodcut prints. He uses carving and carpentry tools—the wood surface is itself an act of improvisation—and then adds paint in varying colors and hues. No two prints are alike, though his surface is fixed (or at least apparently fixed in solid form, different colors, though, tease out the different directions that this engraved print surface can take). The series on display had three phases and, interestingly, they mirrored a coming-of-age play by Gerardo Fulleda León that I had read and written about years ago called Chago de Guisa.

In orange, red, and yellow, a figure with four limbs (what Wilson Harris, Nathaniel Mackey, and Kamau Brathwaite might call “phantom limb” rendered visible) views the horizon and imagines, visualizing his own destiny.


Surrendering to motion, breaking free of the boundaries of the internal self and transitioning into a self that can externalize, navigate, and journey, the gazing figure fathoms the weight of possibility at the crossroads; the all-important space where decisions must be made, fears must be confronted, and obstacles must be overcome.


This is the thematic center ground of the three piece series, the moment at which, as Tavares shared with me, visibly excited by the weight of the decisions and possibilities, “you could turn around or keep going, you could choose another path, you could succumb to fear, you could stay locked in yourself.” With all possibilities in front of him, Tavares’s figure at the crossroads chose to continue on, following his vision, and arrived at the future he visualized in the beginning of the journey (now wiser and visibly aged with flowing beard) along with the viewing audience.


Central to Tavares’s artistic imaginary is his sense of community reflected in the multi-limbed figure’s mission to reach his destination and bring back to the community all that he learned through his travels. “See, he confronted the fears, considered return, moved forward, did not give up,” Tavares shared while viewing the series with me. “But getting there and coming back was not enough,” Tavares added, “he has to give back to the community, be giving, lead a life of generosity; he has to share with the people so they can have their own journeys,” journeys that involve overcoming the life lived internally, in isolation. This is a lesson, too, that applies to all types of journeys, internal external, wherever frontiers are crossed.

This is the first of a series of articles on Terence Tavares’s work, written in English by Jacob Dyer Spiegel (March 29, 2016).

If you enjoyed the post, please “Like” and share the article! Part of our mission, free of charge for local artists, is to highlight the work of incredible local artists like Terence Tavares. Please stay tuned for the next articles on Tavares’s influences and then, in a third article, his process approached through some theories on translation.


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