Speaking a Universal Tongue, Cuban Painters Start a New
Happenings - Intelligencer Journal. June 14, 2002, Lancaster PA, USA
By Rebecca J.Ritzel. Intelligencer Journal Staff.
Yunia Lores and Eduardo Verdecia are living and working in the United States, the place they've been painting and dreaming about for years.
The couple immigrated here last fall after waiting three years for INS to process their applications. Most of the paintings on display through June 29 at Gallery 141 on North Duke Street survived Cuban customs, but barely.
Cuban officials scrutinized the oil paintings, looking for slanderous political content. Verdecia painted over the title of one piece, “ Mystery of the Interior ” Knowing it could be misread as “ Minister of the Interior ,” referring to one of government's cabinet members .
The officials threw the paintings around carelessly. “Maybe they were just ignorant about art in the Custom Office,” Verdecia said, speaking through a translator, Rosalyn Groff.
Working with Verdecia and Lores, Groff said, has been a breath of fresh air.
“My Obra has always been about immigration to the United States and the feelings of leaving,” Verdecia said.
Obra, Groff said, is a difficult word to translate into English. Verdecia and Lores use the word often, referring to their body of artwork, its style and the inspiration behind it.
All of Verdecia’s work is abstract, juxtaposing Cuban people with American figures and symbols. In one painting, a Cuban philosopher type muses beneath two statues of anonymous colonial Americans.
Verdecia said most people in his paintings have identities only in his mind. He purposefully painted generic faces to ward off complaints from the government.
Lores' work is more expressionistic than her husband’s paintings.
Her portrait of an unidentified woman swathed only in a green scarf, breasts peeking out below crowns the exhibit. Apparitions of horses, cats and naked bodies surround the woman. “These are my phantoms,” Lores said. “They are sensual, elegant, and slender.”
Her paintings reflect a dream like state. “Ever since I was young, art was like a refuge for me to go, a fantasy place,” Lores said.
She and Verdecia hope to nurture Lancaster's young artists. Later this month they will begin teaching a six-month art course covering everything from clay to collage at the Spanish American Civic Association.
In the little time they're not working or teaching, they paint.
The floor of their Umbrella House apartment is littered with finished and unfinished canvases.
Alana Maubury Hunter, who owns the gallery, heard about Lores and Verdecia when a Prime employee was checking out her block of Duke Street looking for apartment’s immigrants could rent.
Giving space to the young artists has been a linguistic and artistic experiment. She's learned about the Cubans' lives and work in spurts, whenever a translator is available.
“There was a poetry to it we weren't quite getting,” Maubury Hunter said. “We know there’s much to understand.”
Verdecia said a viewer's fluency in Spanish or English doesn't matter. “Our work is diverse, it can be understood by anyone,” he said. “As many people as stand in front of the artwork, it can have that many meanings.”
Gallery 141. June 14, 2002. Lancaster, PA. USA (Two Artist Show)