First published: Fall 2001
Every night at eight o’clock, as dependably as the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, the dirty window of a dilapidated cigar-maker’s cottage on Catherine Street in Key West was suddenly haloed with a reddish glow. Its occupant – an ageing former musician known as Makiki – would flick on an electrical switch inside his tiny island home, and the result was a dizzying, relentlessly stimulating spectacle of light, color, religious imagery, and mirrored reflections.
From the mid-1970s until his suicide in 1998, Makiki – or Geraldo Alfonso as he was originally named – performed that nightly ritual of illuminating a shrine to his deceased mother, Sophia Ferrar, a reputed ‘voodoo queen’. Her spirit, he believed, remained in the house, talking to him, and directing him to create.
He considered her presence a miracle, and he honored her by painstakingly embellishing nearly every interior surface of the home they had shared in a mosaic of tiny, hand-cut mirror fragments. He called it the ‘Miracle Home’ and from floor to ceiling it reflected the life of a sensitive and lonely man – a life that after his mother’s death had been transformed as profoundly as a lightning bolt. A percussionist in traditional Cuban comparsa (street) bands, Makiki had set aside his maracas upon her death, and picked up an oil knife. He was fifty-seven when, in one single motion, he turned to art. He would spend the next twenty-two years completing an artistic journey that took him from themes of piety to prurience.
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #36