Cuban Artist: Rafael Villares

While on my trip to Cuba, I had the opportunity to meet an amazing Cuban artist named Rafael Villares; his work was both evocative and naturalistic. Villares presented one of two ideas in his artwork: the idea of creating function out of something that appears to be without function; and the relationship between Cubans and Cuban Americans, in regards to the Cuban migration. In one of his function pieces called ‘Breathe’, Villares installed a light box in the center of the floor and created a layer of cracked dirt above the light box. As the observers came into the room, they would immediately be greeted by the rhythmic sounds of breathing that was matched by the intensity of the light shining through the cracks. This would eventually cause the observer to sync their own breathing with that of the “earth” creating the idea that they are one with the environment. Another function piece with a similar idea was ‘Flight’, this piece consisted of a room that had air blowing from the ceiling to the floor, and from the floor to the ceiling. These two forces of air hold up tons of loose bird feathers that were collected for the piece, giving the observer the feeling that they are flying with these feathers. The feathers had already fallen of the birds they belonged to; so this piece emphasized creating function in something that had lost function.

One work that I personally got the chance to see was Villares piece on the Cuban Identity and Relationship. As many know, after the Cuban Migration following the revolution that led Communism, tensions arose between those that remained in Cuba and those that fled to Miami. Hostility has caused many Cubans to disassociate themselves with the ones that fled and consider those to not be “authentic Cubans”. Villares, who holds a different ideology, installed a lamppost in the middle of the central city known as Havana Vieja. This lamppost was split into two, holding two light bulbs, and intertwined with each other to represent a unity. One light bulb was from Cuba; the other was brought from Miami. This symbolized that the Cubans and Cuban Americans may seem to be different but they are in fact intertwined and are one. Villares was a phenomenal artist and I connected deeply with the message he was trying to present. Feel free to check out his website to read more about these pieces and see any new work he may create.

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