BAYarts celebrates Cuba this month

William Riera's "Aunt Nelsa" is among the Cuban-themed artwork on display at BAYarts starting July 14.

This month, BAYarts' two galleries are hosting two concurrent Cuban-themed art exhibitions.

In the Sullivan Family Gallery will be the "Cuban Invitation 2017," curated by Augusto C. Bordelois. Artists living in and outside of Cuba reflect on their heritage, their nostalgia, their dreams, their pasts, their realities, and their spiritual, political, physical and geographic relationship with the island.

Artists participating in the show include: José Andrés Mato Alonso, Orlando Bofil, Ramón Carulla, Juan Miranda, Luis Molina, Abisay Puentes, William Riera, Otalio Soca and José Toñarely.

"My Cuban Experience" will be on display in the Dianne Boldman Education Gallery. It will be examining the rich history and story of Cuban culture as seen by the eyes of local artists who have traveled there. Along with artwork, personal items will also be exhibited.

Augusto Bordelois has been recognized in Cuba and the U.S. for his paintings, sculpture, ceramics and costume design, participating in more than 150 international exhibitions.

Bordelois sees the monumental value in shows like this now. "It is important to have exhibitions of works created by any social, cultural or ethnic group because we all grow when we create bridges that help us understand other points of view. Art shows are just vehicles of communication between artists and audiences. During the last 60 years, Cuba and its culture have been a bit of an enigma to the American audience. We all know the political reasons but it is about time to meet other kind of storytellers and experience the culture through their work."

"As a show curator and an as an immigrant artist myself of Cuban background, I am interested in exploring my own identity and that of my art," says the artist. "After almost 20 years of living in America and being exposed to all sources of American culture, my art has changed a lot. But still, its Cuban origin is obvious even though I can't quite define it. Is it color, theme, technique? What makes a piece of artwork Cuban Art? Is this just a marketing gimmick to sell art or is it real?"

Explaining the differences between the two shows, Bordelois draws attention to how personal identity factors into artistic expression. "In one gallery, artists of Cuban origin living in exile 5-60 years will define their Cuban cultural background by presenting works rooted in their experience of being born and raised on the island, in their attachment to a culture that keeps alive the essence of who they are."

And what does he hope people take away from what BAYarts is providing this July? He hopes that stereotypes will be crushed. "I hope that people will learn that Cuban culture is more than old American cars, cigars, rum, salsa music and a country stuck in time and in a political conversation."

Meanwhile the Boldman gallery tackles the challenge of people looking in from the outside perspective. In the exhibition, "recent American visitors to the island will present photographs, collected artifacts and souvenirs that will define Cuban culture as well from the point of view of a foreign observer," said Bordelois. But each brings an important element of artistic insight. "Both views are valid. I believe that any culture should be defined, explained and learned from many points of view. The visitor's, the audience's and the creator's point of view should never exclude each other but complement the experience."

The experience of his BAYarts shows has resonated deeply with Bordelois. "I have curated other shows, but when I was selecting each of the pieces for this show, I felt comfortable. I felt like these artists were long-lost best friends, like I was putting up a show in Havana and after a show, we were going to a paladar [a Cuban private family restaurant] to have some beers. They all reminded me of home."

The opening reception for both shows is Friday, July 14, from 6-9 p.m. There will be Cuban-inspired food as well as the Neil Chastain Trio providing Latin music. Both exhibitions will be on display through Aug. 5.

Jessica Stockdale

Jessica Stockdale is the Marketing Manager at BAYarts.

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Volume 9, Issue 13, Posted 9:29 AM, 07.05.2017