Trinidad, Cuba is quaint colonial town nestled between the mountains and the sea. A UNESCO site, known for it's great preservation of colonial architecture and art. Still to this day it is home to many artists, architects and historians. Making it a very attractive town to visit as a fellow artist myself. Last year, on one of my many random flaneur strolls about town, i popped into a open door that seemed inviting.
The first thing that I was greeted by was a man, sitting in a simple chair at a desk with his tools and his work, catching the natural light. He seem to be carving out a portrait in a piece of old wood. I realized I was in a gallery of sorts and began to look around. It was small ,charming, and simple with white walls, in which these beautifully intricate wood cravings were hung. It didn't take me long to be completely in awe & admiration of his art and knew that I had found someone and something that was very special and unique. With my broken Spanish, I introduced myself and made efforts to find the right words to express how I felt. Lazaro , being the kind, gentle man he is, immediately welcomed me in, introducing me to his wife, family and his wife's brother. He then told me to take a seat, and asked me if i would like a "canchanchara". I didn't quite understand what that meant but hey.. sure.. He walked out with a drink in hand served in a small terra cotta cup with a straw. A "Canchanchara" is local Trinidad drink, made up of , rum, lime, honey and a bit of water and ice. Super refreshing on a hot day and deceptively light and easy to drink.
Taking a seat, I quietly became a witness to Lazaro's life as a artist in Cuba. Watching him skillfully carving out these intricate portraits of Cubans from photos. Sometimes taking him a few months to complete. Admiring him not only for his commitment to his trade but for his pride in what he does. Watching him take on a role of the artist and representation of his work at the same time is two roles I know oh so well. Learning how to find a balance between them is a skill. Sitting there, observing, I could relate to all the emotions that came up in Lazaro, between the viewer and the work and the conversations expressing their interest in buying. I listened as Lazaro always pridefully kept to his selling price without lowering, just to accommodate a tourist request. Selling your own work in general can be a very tough thing to do. To understand the worth of your work and the market and to be able to part with it, is all things that you must weigh and learn. I spoke to him about this and other things that came with a artist's life.
It was from here, that I took a keen interest not only with Lazaro but with all Cuban artists. I wanted to get to know them. To know what inspired them, or how they went about their daily artistic lives or even where they sourced their supplies on such a scarce market and a limited wage. All these things form and make Cuba art and artists unique to the rest of the world. So this started into a personal journey to interview and document them in their studios and ask them some basic questions. I say basic as it is all most of them were willing to reveal at first, as they were a bit hesitate to answer or reveal their personal lives to me. Perhaps they just plain curious of my intentions.
I told them, it was simple, that I would like to celebrate their talent, and allow their work to be potentially seen to a wider audience. That I was curious in getting to know them and their stories as artists living in Cuba. I was open with them and revealed that being a artist myself, I knew the struggles to promoting yourself and staying true to your trade and passions in order in making a living out of it. It's always been a bit of passion of mine to see talent in others. Perhaps its easier to push others then yourself. Through being open, honest and outgoing I have met some amazing creative Cubans that have come to be my friend, and inspire and influence my life through their stories and work. I hope this project will shed a bit of light on the incredible talent that this island holds. I met up with Lazaro again this year. Having lunch with him and his family. At this moment, a year later, he is not selling his work but preparing for a exhibition in the states .
Meet Lazaro Niebla.
What is your full name? Lazaro Niebla Castro
Where were you born and where are you living now? Born in Lekeitio, Cienfuegos. Live in Trinidad.
What is your medium? I used acrylic, recycled materials of all kinds. Ceramic wax and other tools like paintbrushes, wood carving tools, gouge, saw, hammers.
What school, training, teachers, or mentors have you had in your life? I studied Oscar Fernandez Morena de Trinidad school. In the sculpture workshops.
Who are you influences? Artists you like? Artists that influenced me are Donatello , Picasso, Botero, Modigliani.
What are your dreams? To be happy
What is your routine as a artist? My routine organizing my things, work till noon, have lunch, have rest, and in the afternoon I don’t a fixed schedule or a routine of stable. Mornings are the most productive.
What are some of your general likes and dislikes? I like my family and what I do. I don’t like to let people down.
If you could travel, where would it be and why? I would like to visit Galiscia, Spain because that’s where my grandfather was born.
Why do you make art? because i like to express myself in this way and I have the chance to do so.
CONTACT- GALERIA -Calle Real #11B, Trinidad, Cuba- 52940210- email- firstname.lastname@example.org
UPCOMING EXHIBITION- JULY 14th, Central Library, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A 7pm , 2017.