Cuba, Seen through Artists' Eyes
Perez-Brennan, Tanya, The Florida Times Union
Byline: TANYA PEREZ-BRENNAN, The Times-Union
Imagine yourself walking through the Cuban version of St. Augustine: cobblestone streets, colorful buildings and charm oozing from the city core.
This is Baracoa, the oldest Spanish settlement on Cuba's easternmost point. And you can feel like you're there without ever getting on a plane. Just look at the paintings featured in "Cuban Corner" at four St. Augustine galleries tonight, and you'll be transported to another world.
The Cuban art came about through the St. Augustine-Baracoa Friendship Association, a non-profit, 150-member volunteer organization founded three years ago that runs humanitarian and educational missions.
A large art exhibit, "The Binding of Two Cultures," was shown in June, followed last month by art workshops with Cuban artists. The response has been so positive, said Sali "Soledad" McIntire, secretary of the organization, that they continue to bring the works of more Cuban artists and rotate monthly exhibits in St. Augustine.
In this latest round, new work by Roel Caboverde is included, along with paintings by Luis Eliades, Guillermo Labanino (known professionally as "Piedra") and Leandro Noa.
Caboverde's work, which will hang in Gallery Thirty-Nine, is especially distinctive for its neo-cubist style and renderings of scenes from everyday life.
Three years ago, McIntire approached Len Weeks, St. Augustine's mayor at the time, with the association's idea to do an artist exchange. A trip to Baracoa ensued, and things took off from there.
The Art Association of Baracoa chose the artists for the first exhibit. Since then, McIntire has returned to Cuba numerous times and has chosen work she thought would be appealing to sell here.
"Anytime anyone would come into the gallery, we just went along with people's opinions," McIntire said.
"And you know you like something when you see it," said Deane Kellogg, co-owner of Gallery Thirty-Nine, while looking at Caboverde's work.
In many of the paintings, the people's heads are small and the bodies big. "The hands are big because they work the land," McIntire said. …