What does it mean to abandon a homeland, to be labeled as a traitor and erased from a nation's records? In Cuba and Other Considerations, UCCS' Gallery of Contemporary Art downtown brings together Cuban-born artists and expatriates Esteban Blanco and Carlos Manuel Cárdenes to wrestle with this question.
Cárdenes' part of the exhibit, Faces, is a survey of more than 60 photographs of Cuban artists living around the world who, like him and Blanco, left the island to escape political oppression and artistic censorship. Positioning these artists in front of their work, he captures human beings who chose exile rather than constraint within a system that treats its people "like a commodity."
"The Cuban government spends a lot money for your schooling, and they trade you out to other countries for services," he says. "So once you leave [of your own accord], you're basically considered a traitor."
Blanco's Violent Toys exhibit is a playful interaction of mixed-media sculptures that initially look like toys, but are exaggeratedly furnished with an extravagant amount of weaponry from different eras of world warfare. As Blanco explains on his website, the toys signify a desire for escapism and a way of finding order as a child.
"War and violence is our most innate tendency as humans," Blanco says. Such toys, he adds, are "constructed by every society we've ever known, so this is just a fun way to depict two sides of the same coin."
Blanco's also showing The Invisible Cities, inspired by a novel about idealized love of our home cities. It's a series of bronze sculptures of world cities laid over objects symbolizing each city's culture, such as the city of Paris atop a woman's shoe, and the city of Havana floating on a boat. The city of Jerusalem sits atop a book, but Blanco doesn't identify it as any particular tome. As in all art, he says, "any interpretation is inevitable."