Turmoil in Cuba inspires newest Walsh exhibit

Can culture and the arts flourish in the midst of political turmoil, difficult living conditions and shortages on basic artistic instruments like paper? 13 artists show how self expression can survive in demanding, strenuous situations.

The Walsh Gallery’s latest exhibit, “Cuban Artists’ Books and Prints: 1985-2008,” demonstrates a creative and inventive form of expression.

The exhibit aims to exemplify the resilience and imaginative power of the artists in the wake of political, social and cultural difficulties that occurred over the past two decades in Cuba. The traveling exhibit was brought to Seton Hall for Hispanic Heritage Month.

“The exhibit is meant to create a laboratory for learning and an open environment for discussion on both the political and social issues in Cuba,” said Jeanne Brasile, director of Walsh Gallery.

Curated by Dr. Linda S. Howe and the WFU Cuba project collective “Cubans Artists’ Books and Prints: 1985-2008” consists of over 120 pieces.

Many of the works are collaged with cloth, leaves, or wood scraps while some are made as scrolls for hanging, which demonstrates the inventive means that artists employed to create these pieces.

“Cuban Artists’ Books and Prints” began when a collection of artists works were gathered together for Ediciones Vigía, a collaborative artist press founded in 1985.

The only press of its kind in Cuba began with a mimeograph machine and a borrowed typewriter. It soon developed into a series of handmade books displaying the work of many young Cuban artists.

These books form the basis of the current exhibit in Walsh Gallery.

Entering the exhibit one, can expect to be immersed in a culture full of color and vibrancy in shades of red, yellow and blue that withstood the fall of the Soviet Union and the economic strife of the 1990’s.

Several artists demonstrate the creative and resourceful means of expression employed during this time.

A work by Danielo Moreno entitled “Reflections” employs the use of cloth metal and ink to create a book in dress form. The piece is graphic and tangible to the viewer because the dress can be easily read and worn.

“The artist challenges the idea of what a book is by employing different forms like a dress and printing blocks to create one-of-a-kind books,” said Brasile.

Another work entitled “Ana Mendieta” by Nancy Morejón, the well-known Afro-Cuban poet, is made of paper with sand, feathers and eggshells.

In her piece, Morejón pays homage to Ana Mendieta, the revered Cuban video and performance artist who died under mysterious circumstances in New York City in 1985.

Artists Carlos Estévez and Olyma Ortiz print words and images on found objects. In “Striping Bare the Soul,” Estévez prints on the clothing of dolls to express his journey into the soul’s core, while Olymya Ortiz employs the use of umbrellas as her main tool in her work entitled “El Paraguas.”

The exhibit shows the playful, humorous and aesthetically pleasing side of Cuban art. It also demonstrates that people with few resources will find a way to create art and fulfill the human need to express their creativity.

Viewers can see this resourceful art for themselves at the Walsh Gallery.

The gallery will continue to host the exhibit until Dec. 10 culminating in a panel discussion at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 11 in Beck room B.

Elizabeth Molina can be reached at elizabeth.molina@student.shu.edu.

Author: Staff Writer

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