I first saw Antonio Briceño’s photographic series, Gods of the America, at the Venezuelan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007. I was struck with the technical proficiency of his photography, but even more so by the depth and spirituality inherent in the images of these shamans and healers of our Earth.
As Executive Director and Chief Curator for the nonprofit Art Works for Change, I have been producing contemporary art exhibitions to address social and environmental issues. We engage in partnerships with our host communities — museums, grassroots organizations, advocacy and educational institutions around the world — our exhibitions serve as both crucible and catalyst for positive social change.
We subscribe to the belief that artists are storytellers and visionaries, utilizing the power of their artwork as a vehicle to translate and transform our world-view by lyrically and empathically reflecting our own stories and offering new ones. Through these rich set of tools, irony to allegory, beauty to provocation, metaphor to humor, artists help us envision a better world.
That vision can be seen in the work of Briceño. He is an exceptional photographer who is comfortable moving beyond boundaries, not only within different cultures and populations but also in ideology, to explore different visions of our world. He embraces his art in a way that makes it personal and deep on a spiritual level ‑an impressive accomplishment.
Since I first saw Briceño’s work in Venice, Art Works for Change has invited his participation in the Moving Towards a Balanced Earth exhibition that opened in 2008 at the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum in New Zealand. He joined us for the opening, receiving the prestigious United Nations “Green Leaf” award for excellence in artistic work and vision to the environment. At that time, he extended his stay so that he could meet and photograph the nearby Maori community. I was impressed with not only the beauty of the new body of work but also the ease and acceptance with which he moves within different cultures - whether the Maori of New Zealand, Shamans of the Americas or in his most recent work with the Sami in the Nordic Region. He elicits a trust that enables him to capture something deep and essential about their collective nature through his photography.
With his ability to move seamlessly within different indigenous communities, Briceño was an immediate choice for Art Works for Change to invite to Kigali, Rwanda in 2010, to create a new body of work to celebrate the United Nations World Environment Day. We hoped he would capture the stories and images related to the people and biodiversity of that country, and we were not disappointed. The exhibition, Millions of Pieces: Only One Puzzle, pays homage to the people of Rwanda, their rich natural landscape and how human beings play an important role by holding the pieces of the puzzle to change and safeguard their magnificent natural world.
It is his ability to tell these stories — ones most of us would be unlikely to otherwise see — and to do it with such poetic elegance and grace, that makes Antonio Briceño such a treasure — not just to the world of art, but to the community of indigenous people, their communities and environments, and all who value them.