I finally got around to uploading the short video profiles I shot of Cuban artists back in 2001. This video wasn't created to be an actual documentary, it was created to run in the background of an art gallery for an exhibition.
The opening is just a montage of shots, mostly in Old Havana, of Cuban life, art and architecture. I shot it on DV (Sony PD-150) with a borrowed tripod which couldn't pan or tilt. It was hard enough to the get the camera in the country without setting off sirens, so a professional tripod was out of the question. I picked one up on arrival which was just good enough to sit the camera on , so I had to stick to static shots only. I was too liberal with the dissolves but I had just learned to edit on an NLE, and I was enamored with the effects options...we live and learn:
The first artist is Angel Delgado, whose star has risen to greater heights since this interview was shot. Angel gained notoriety after a performance piece he did in a Havana art gallery during the "Special Period" . Cuba had been relying heavily on Soviet financial support for decades. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the financial aid dried up and sent an already scrapped Cuba into an even deeper depression.
Angel felt like an artistic statement needed to be made to mark the Special Period. In an exhibit titled ,"The Sculptured Object", he calmly walked into the gallery, laid down a copy of the Granma, Cuba's official communist party newspaper, and took a massive dump on it.
Cuban officials failed to appreciate the metaphor and Angel was thrown in prison for 6 months. While incarcerated, he used the only thing he had at his disposal, handkerchiefs and soap, to make his art.
I spent Angel's birthday with him and his friends on a rooftop in the outskirts of Havana...it was a magical night.
The beauty of Cuban art in general is the use of found objects by artists living in an environment where acquiring art materials, like paint and canvas, can prove to be unattainable. Their determination to create inspires them to use any material they can get their hands on to make an artistic expression.
Eduardo Pon Juan is an art professor at the University of Havana. His use of books in his art is notable because of the suppression of books and media in the country.
For those of you who speak Spanish, I apologize for the translation, but I did this with no budget and with the help of friends.
Damian Aquilles' popularity has increased significantly since this video was shot in 2001. He likes to use saltwater with metal to create a rust "paint".
Damian is a great friend and he makes frequent visits to the U.S., even New Orleans every once and while.
There is currently an exhibition of Angel Delgado's work at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery on Julia Street, as well as some other Cuban artists, including Damian Aquilles, until the end of February.
It's funny, I was only in Cuba for a short period in 2001 but to this day I still have dreams of the country. Politics aside, it's a magical place.