By Alexa Coveney and Abby Del Vecchio
Havana, Cuba – Despite the crumbling infrastructure and societal problems in Cuba, art thrives in the city of Havana.
Wilay Méndez Páez is a sculptor, painter and poet who uses discarded and decomposing materials he finds in the streets to mold his artwork. Wilay says he must feel a personal connection to the materials he uses. He says he sees the city as a grand ship that moves and has energy.
“My pieces are a collage,” he said, “a building floating in space.”
Reinerio Tamayo Fonseca, known popularly as Tamayo, is inspired by baseball, an important part of Cuban culture. When he was young, Tamayo said baseball was injected into him everyday. He uses baseball and the Cuban-American relationship as an inspiration for his work.
Throughout Cuba’s changing history, art has been a way to express the true Cuba. Both artists were deeply affected by the Special Period, a time after the Soviet Union collapsed, leaving Cuba without its economic backing and many Cubans without food and other basic needs of life.
Through this difficult time, Wilay used art as a way to convey the hurt and hope in Cuba’s spirit.
An aura of hope came with President Obama’s Dec. 17, 2014 announcement to fix the relationship between the two countries and take steps to lift the embargo.
Wilay and Tamayo say they will continue to show the real Cuba, through their work, and will create images of a new reality.