20. Life Among the Ruins

1985, 6’8” x 6’3” x 4”

Photo © Camille Perrottet


In 1985, Dina “had my studio—kiln and all—in my tenement apartment, a 4th floor walk up. I had lost my studio on Wards Island and had been gentrified out of the Lower East Side. Living in NYC was not exactly by choice; I had fled the military dictatorship of my native Argentina. 

“I had been looking for street venues for my ceramic work and learned about La Lucha by chance. Perusing through the pages of the Village Voice, I saw a notice on the back page. It read something like: ‘Artists interested in painting political murals in the Lower East Side, come to a meeting at...‘ I attended the meeting and was pleased the group would welcome a ceramic mural; otherwise, I was prepared to paint one.” 

Life Among the Ruins was “inspired by the Pre-Columbian ruins of Mexico and Central America, and the vitality and dignity of the people against repeated invasions. I mixed traditional Mesoamerican symbols with contemporary references. 

“This was my first ceramic mural for outdoors, and I had no idea how to properly install it. With help from many friends and other artists working alongside my site, we pulled it off. This was my first experience with street/community/public art. It sparked, in 1987 and 1988, Gargoyles to Scare the Developers—29 bas reliefs installed on buildings throughout Loisaida. Viewed as protectors of the community, they declared that these buildings and their residents were not for sale. 

“A few days before the reception celebrating all the murals, a dear friend of mine, Juan Carlos Vidal, died of complications from AIDS. He lived just a few blocks from La Plaza and I dedicated the mural to him and it became a sort of memorial for him. Friends in common often gathered at the site. The mural lasted for many years intact, even after the lot was partitioned and a section became part of the community garden.” 



Ceramics still her main medium, Dina continues to exhibit and create public art (NYC Percent for Art and the MTA Arts & Design programs). She also writes, draws, and publishes books. Since 2006, she’s lived in Catskill, NY, where she and her spouse, Julie Chase, run the Open Studio, a storefront shop and gallery.  dinabursztyn.com

Jane Weissman