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Contemporary artists share their personal talismans both made and found

My power object is the Santeria bust our neighbor Maria gave to me”¯and my”¯partner, Peter, in the mid-1980s. She said if we ever decided we didn’t want it to not give or throw it away but to give it back to her. Maria was the neighborhood orisha. She lived on the”¯second”¯floor of our five-story tenement walk-up on the Lower East Side. When people wanted a spell, dream interpretation, or prediction, they’d call from the street up to her window on the second floor. Maria rarely left her apartment except to go to church on Sunday. I guess she had a special orisha name, because there was rarely a day you didn’t hear someone calling “Pooka!” I never asked her about this name; I just assumed it was an orisha name, because anyone who didn’t want her magical services just called her Maria. We never asked but she always said an incantation whenever we had a court date with our evil landlord, Walter. Maria was afraid to cross him legally for fear of eviction and the immigration authorities””he kept her under constant threat.”¯But boy could Maria cast a spell. In thirty years of housing court litigation we never lost a case. Maria passed away some years ago. The bust is still sitting on the sconce in our kitchen.”¯

Santeria bust; image courtesy of Jack Waters
Santeria bust; image courtesy of Jack Waters

About the Contributor

Jack Waters most recently appeared”¯with”¯the band NYOBS”¯in”¯Memories That Smell Like Gasoline“¯at the Whitney Museum.”¯Known for his experimental,”¯cross-disciplinary multimedia works, Waters”¯has exhibited internationally at”¯the New Museum, London Film Makers Cooperative, Center for Contemporary Culture Barcelona (CCCB),”¯and Anthology Film Archives.”¯With his partner, Peter Cramer, Jack co-directed ABC No Rio while founding the nonprofit arts umbrella Allied Productions, Inc.”¯and the community art garden Le Petit Versailles.”¯ .