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Erin Currier

Carlos Gardel as the Buddha

Acrylic and mixed media on panel, 36"h x 24"w, Item No. 21717,

Carlos Gardel (11 December 1890 – 24 June 1935) was a French-born Argentine singer, songwriter, composer,& actor, and the most prominent figure in the history of tango. Gardel is the most famous popular tango singer of all time and is recognized throughout the world. Described variously as a baritone or tenor because of his wide vocal range, he was known for his rich voice and dramatic phrasing. Together with lyricist & long-time collaborator Alfredo Le Pera, Gardel wrote classic tangos.

Gardel died in an airplane crash at the height of his career, becoming an archetypal tragic hero mourned throughout Latin America. For many, Gardel embodies the soul of Tango. He is commonly referred to as "El Zorzal", "The King of Tango", "El Mago", "El Morocho del Abasto", & "El Mudo".
In 1967, a controversial theory was published by Uruguayan writer Erasmo Silva Cabrera, asserting that Gardel was born in Tacuarembó, Uruguay. Other authors expanded upon this theory, and a museum to Gardel was established in Tacuarembó. But Gardel's friends & family all knew him as a French immigrant from Toulouse. Scholarly researchers analyzed the contradictory evidence, & confirmed his birthplace as Toulouse.
Gardel was born to unmarried 25-year-old laundress Berthe Gardès. The father of the baby boy was listed on his birth certificate as "unknown", but 11 days later Berthe Gardès signed a statement establishing the baby's father as Paul Laserre, a married man who left Toulouse a few months before the baby was born. Berthe Gardès also left Toulouse, a little over a year later, likely to escape the social stigma of having a child born out of wedlock. In early 1893 in Bordeaux, France, mother and son boarded the ship SS Don Pedro and sailed to Buenos Aires, arriving on 11 March 1893. Gardel's mother settled at the western edge of the central San Nicolás district of Buenos Aires. She worked two blocks away on Calle Montevideo, pressing clothes in the French style, which commanded a relatively high price in the fashion-conscious city. Some time after 1918, Laserre traveled from France to Buenos Aires to ask Berthe Gardès, now called Doña Berta, whether she would like to legitimize her son by marrying Laserre. Gardel told his mother that if she did not need this man in her life, neither did he, closing the matter with "I don't even wish to see him."
Gardel began his singing career in bars & at private parties. He also sang with Francisco Martino & later in a trio with Martino and José Razzano. Gardel created the tango-canción in 1917 with his rendition of Pascual Contursi & Samuel Castriota's Mi noche triste. The recording sold 10,000 copies & was a hit throughout Latin America.
Gardel went on tour through Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Venezuela & Colombia, as well as making appearances in Paris, New York, Barcelona & Madrid. He sold 70,000 records in the first three months of a 1928 visit to Paris. As his popularity grew, he made a number of films for Paramount in France & the U.S. While sentimental films such as Cuesta abajo (1934) & El día que me quieras (1935) lack lasting dramatic value, they were outstanding showcases of his tremendous singing talents & movie star looks.
Gardel was aware of the fact that much of his popularity was based on his attractiveness to women. In an effort to seem as if he were available to any woman, he sought to keep his love life secret. Gardel had one major girlfriend in his life: Isabel del Valle. He met del Valle in late 1920 when she was fourteen years of age. At the time, he was performing at the Esmeralda Theater in Buenos Aires. They were close for more than a decade. 
Gardel died on 24 June 1935 in a crash between aircraft at Olaya Herrera AirfieldMedellín, Colombia. Millions of Gardel's fans throughout Latin America went into mourning. Hordes came to pay their respects as his body was taken from Colombia through New York City and Rio de Janeiro. Thousands rendered homage during the two days he lay in state in Montevideo, the city in which his mother lived at the time. Gardel's body was laid to rest in La Chacarita Cemetery in Buenos Aires.

I have chosen to pay the ultimate homage to Carlos Gardel by portraying him in the form of the Buddha. I utilized the traditional sacred geometry of Tibetan Buddhism. The piece is partly compromised of ephemera from my various journeys to Buenos Aires. The first time I visited Gardel’s poetic gravesite, I was blown away to find a living, ever-evolving, work of Art—in the form of the people’s love for him. Surrounding his life-size statue which holds a continuously-lit cigarette, are photographs, sheet music, albums, bottles of wine & spirits, bouquets of fresh flowers, candles.. People sit at the foot of the statue— playing guitar, singing his songs, sharing in their love for this God among men— who continues to inspire.