Cy Young, a winning pitcher,

in both U.S. and Cuban art


 If art is rendering order out of chaos, as one of the ancients said – possibly Aristotle in The Poetics, although Google has failed to produce the exact quotation — if art is rendering art of out chaos, there was a lot of art a-birthing Wednesday afternoon at The Studios of Key West, the armory and the cottages both, and the Gato Building.

Things were pretty hectic at  Stone Soup Gallery and Framing Studio, where canvasses brought across the Straits of Florida from Cuba were being stretched onto pre-ordered frames, some of which somehow were the wrong dimensions, as well as at the Oldest House and Garden Museum, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum and the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, all venues for the weekend’s Key West grand opening of Greene Street Gallery owner, proud Conch and curator Nance Frank’s miraculous cultural exchange. TSKW is listed as lead “producer” with the other venues.

In January Frank led a delegation of local official and art patrons to Havana, where an exhibition of famed Key West folk artist Mario Sanchez’s work opened at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes on Jan. 17 and runs through March 23. This weekend’s openings are the other end of that cultural exchange, which has been a year, at least, in the planning. Cuba and the United States have not had official diplomatic, economic or cultural relations for more than 50 years, since shortly after Communist Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista regime.

Nine artists, all famous and honored in their own land, have come to Key West for the festivities. Konk Life had the pleasure of meeting two of them.

Reuben Alpizar and Reinerio Tamayo are showing at the Gato Building, home of the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, which opened Friday. At the Studio’s cottages on Ashe St. Wednesday, they were conferring with Liz Young, executive director of the host council. They are actually so famous in Cuba they are known by one name – rather like Madonna, Beyonce and their ilk.

Alpizar creates accessible, often humorous homage to iconic figures in art, film, athletics.  Here with his wife, Lizbet, they were preparing to transport to the Gato canvases such as Cy Young in the mode of Kandinsky. The famed pitcher’s “arm movements went well with the decorative elements of Kandinsky, the artist’s explosion,” he said. Then there was a double-entendre caricature of Hemingway – catching a marlin, “The Old Man and the Marlin.”

Tomayo works somewhere between surrealism and a bone-sure realism, but his work, too, features homage to famous artists and historical figures — all of whom, he said, have influenced his life. His paintings feature “windows” from which familiar faces (and at least one object: a dagger) peer, lean or can be seen. One quartet of canvases is exhibited as a “train.” The wit and precision of this work is worth a trip to the Gato.

Thanks also to translators Wayne Garcia and Harriet Frank for their assistance.

Actually, Konk Life spend time partying with another successful Cuban artist, who has been represented locally by Stone Soup Gallery for many years, Eduardo Guerra. This writer has, in fact, collected some of his work. Totally by coincidence Stone Soup owner Melissa Trader scheduled Guerra and colleagues for a show opening during the Feb. 20 Walk on White without knowing the immense cultural exchange that would occur. Their presence simply enriches the broth.

Other openings over the weekend were the Hemingway House, 6 to 8 Friday in rhythm with the Gato and on Saturday The Oldest House 5 to 7 p.m. and Mel Fisher a “Closing Celebration” — featured artist is Sandra Ramos – 6 to 8 p.m.

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