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José F. Grave de Peralta
In 1988, after one year of travels in Venezuela, Argentina, and Paraguay, Carlos González and the De Armas Gallery in the beautiful VANIDADES Publications Building in Miami, Florida, graciously hosted for me a One-man Show exhibit of works inspired by this journey.
In addition to Carlos' enthusiastic patronage, I am indebted forever grateful and indebted to the late Jesús Pallarés and his Family in Asunción, Paraguay, for the passionate care, inspiration, and lodging I received in their home during the months I spent preparing for a prior show -- the exhibit AMERICANIA, which they sponsored in their turn, and which was also extremely important for me in so many levels. In the form of a letter, I dedicated the catalogue to their daughter Maria Esther. In Asunción, Actress and art patroness Myriam Sienra and her late husband Franco Gallarini introduced me, too, to their night life, close friends, and most importantly to the rich art world of Asunción. Moreover, when I travelled to Punta del Este (Uruguay) and Buenos Aires, Jorge and Guille Bohtlingk as well as Clara Nougés de Monsegur, were just as generous and supportive of my project, transmitting to me much of their deep knowledge and love for the history of Argentina.
Over and beyond this, my sister Patricia and her husband René Villa in Caracas; Maria and Gerry Copello in Sao Paolo, and my mother Mercedes and her then-husband Thomas Macon, living in Miami at that time, were untiring in their participation in my painterly TRADICIÓN: Irte Para Volver .
My gratitude to Carlos González and the De Armas Gallery for the thoughtful review written about this show their art journalist Rosa M.
Thannks to Carlos and to my dear friend Ana Maria "Choby" Pedroso, who worked in the great publications consortium in those days, the article appeared in the VANIDADES Magazine, bringing many people to view my one-man show while it hung in their light-filled exhibition space near Miami International Airport..
Below, the charcoal drawing of "Pygmalion and Galatea," which was part of the show, described by the review on this page and reflecting my life-long love for mythology and legend.
L a R e v o l u c i ó n : Finding Cuba in Asunción
24 " x 30 "
oil on canvas
In this canvas, which looks like a movie set somewhere in Latin America, I turned to the story of
another "lost city" -- the city of my childhood , my native land, and of a whole way of life. Essentially, I painted the day my sisters left the country as if it were being filmed by the movie crew in the left foreground.
Curiously, the painted setting of this family event is not anywhere in Cuba. For personal reasons a bit too complicated to explain here, the buildings surrounding our family scenario in the canvas are in Asunción, Paraguay. The scene, in fact, seems to be part of a movie set --- to the right, under the blue carp with the dragon and the symbol of the crescent and star , are a blonde lady in white and a producer with a megaphone --- great "theater director" friends of mine from Paraguay --- Myriam Sienra and Tito Chamorro. Art (film, painting) and reality are one in this movie set "tribute" to my childhood .
I am the little boy in the center of the composition, getting a " p i r u l í " -- a sort of lollypop -- from another young boy my age, the candy vendor to the left of the colorful candy tree in front of the lady dressed in white. She is my grandmother, the two girls to the right of me are my sisters, and the blond-haired man in the white jacket behind them is my father, with his doctor's medicine bag tucked under his arm. My mother is inside the old American Buick, almost in flight!
The soldiers in green behind my dad are rebels of Fidel Castro's army -- I remember when many of those soldiers would arrive triumphant in our hometown after the victory of Fidel Castro's revolution, and how my cousins and I would run to see them on the street and shake their hands: they were our heroes. They wore Catholic rosaries around their necks and looked like saints and holy hermits from some old painting or church retablo. It wouldn't be long till some of those same rebels were obeying Castro's orders to execute many of their countrymen before firing squads -- without a fair trial.
In the painting, the small green suitcase behind "me" on the pavement in front of one of my sisters is also an important symbol. Two or three years after the Castro takeover, my parents sent my sisters to live with close family friends in Puerto Rico, to wait there for my parents and me to leave the island . . . . My sister's departure marked not only the breakup of my family in the larger sense, but a significant turning point in all our lives. This canvas recalls the day my sisters left Cuba, each carrying a doll.
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