Cuban Art: From Pinturas to Películas

By Jake Meyer ~

Of all the different mediums of Cuban art that we’ve been exposed to on this trip, I’ve been very pleased thus far. The feats that Cuban artists have accomplished are extraordinary. Especially those of the artists at the Muraleando Community Project we saw yesterday. Cuban artists don’t have the luxury of government subsidies or community centers like people in the U.S. do. They had to raise their own money, build their own artistic space (in a water tower), and keep it running on their own. I am equally impressed with the art Cubans have created as I am with the way in which they were able to create such art. By this I mean that I am just as astounded by the art at the Muraleando community art project as I am by the way the artists were able to create such a space. The building is truly a work of art in itself.

My favorite type of Cuban art that I’ve seen so far is the hyper-realist paintings we saw at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. I was already a fan of realism before coming to Cuba but the paintings I’ve seen here since are really incredible. In particular, I like the painting of the forest with a circular lake in the middle, a matching island in the background, and clouds in the sky (“Relationship,” by Tomas Sanchéz). The painting appears almost as a photograph from a distance. It acknowledges the integral relationship between earth, water, and air. (You can see it here.) Many Cuban artists have used works like this to draw attention to some of the great environmental issues that plague Cuba.

In addition to paintings we also learned about Cuban film today. Today’s lecture detailed the historical developments of Cuba’s film industry. Cuban film went through three major stages in 1897, 1959, and 1990. Between 1897 and 1959 the focus of Cuban film was the luxuries of the island. The films created a false image of Cuba using beautiful dancers as a party island where the sun was always shining and the cervezas were always flowing. Then after Castro took power in 1959, all Cuban films had to be focused on some aspect of Cuba. Whether it be glorifying Cuba, improving Cuba, fighting for Cuba, etc. Since the revolution, the government mandated that all films had to promote some aspect of Cuba. Then in the 1990s film makers started to become independent of the state sponsored film company called the ICAIC because they now have their own cameras, phones, DVDs, software, etc. These new movies still have a Cuban focus but have begun to explore new genres and themes in film making. For instance, Cuba recently produced its first zombie movie!

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