Cuba’s Arts Culture *Videos*

SalasHemingwayCuba has a vibrant arts culture and lucky for me my recent tour focused on exploring the island’s local art scene. In fact, one of the trip highlights is the access we had—visiting the artists in their homes, seeing their work in progress, and getting to talk to them directly about their inspiration.

Here’re just a few of my (now) favorite Cuban artists:

Photography – Roberto Salas

We visited Roberto Salas in his home one afternoon, where he regaled us with stories about how he stumbled upon his international photography career. Born in New York in 1940, Salas learned photography from his father, working in his studio as a teenager. Then at age 19, Salas traveled to Cuba where he was invited by Fidel Castro to document the country’s budding Communist revolution.

Given unparalleled access to the Cuban leaders, including Castro and Che, Roberto took some of the most iconic images of that period. His ability to catch the leaders as they relaxed gives us an insight into the men’s humanity rarely seen. In this photo, he’s snapped the only known meeting between Fidel Castro and Ernest Hemingway.

Salas’ work is described as “an invitation into the heart of Cuba.” You can view his magnificent work in a book featuring his most famous photography collection entitled Fidel’s Cuba: A Revolution in Pictures.

Choco Painting 1Visual Arts – Eduardo Roca Salazar (Choco)

One of Cuba’s most famous artists—and my personal favorite—is Eduardo Roca Salazar (known as Choco). Born in a small rural village, Choco acquired his moniker because he was thought to have resembled the Cuban boxer Kid Chocolate.

Creating art that reflects his Afro-Cuban heritage, Choco specializes in collagraphs, a printmaking technique that uses a variety of textured materials, such as rattan, cardboard, fabric, and sand, to create an image that is then placed on a plate, inked and pressed.

Choco Painting 2One privileged afternoon, Choco gave us a personal tour of his studio called Taller del Sol (Workshop of the Sun). Here he showed us his lasted work that he was preparing for the country’s Biennial Art Show.

Choco’s artistic themes reflect Cuba’s diversity of people and cultures. I particularly love the bold colors, his portrayal of stylized individuals, and how he represents the variety of symbolism that comprises Cuban life.

Choco is world renown and has had many solo exhibitions around the world. Here’s a peek at the man and his work:

Can’t see the video? Click this link: Choco

Erin in FusterlandiaMosaics – José Rodriguez Fuster

We weren’t originally planning to stop by Fuster’s house, but ended up making a side trip to see what is called the “wild kingdom of Fusterlandia.” Here in this nondescript Havana neighborhood, Fuster took his small wooden home and decided to build his dream.

Inspired by Spain’s Gaudi and Romania’s Brancusi, as well as Picasso and Jean Dubuffet, Fuster festooned his home—and much of the surrounding neighborhood—with colored bits of mosaics. His work is inexhaustible, covering roofs, walls, doorways and benches, not only of his home, but the homes of 80 of his neighbors. Here I am on his roof (photo by Michael Wright.)

Taking his inspiration from the fishing village where he grew up, Fuster’s motifs feature the natural world of mermaids, fish, palm trees, and animals, with a healthy does of Santería saints and famous quotations added to the mix. I admit, his place does have a sort of Disneyland appeal.

But don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself:

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Fuster

Enjoying Art

The only hard part after being exposed to all this artistic inspiration – I didn’t buy any art! While supremely impressed, I still didn’t feel the need to “own” any of these beautiful pieces (although I was sorely tempted).

What does this mean? Another trip to Cuba to scoop up the treasures I recently discovered!

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This entry was posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2015 and is filed under North America.

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