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Arts & Culture

As Cuba's New President Moves In, Cuba-Inspired Film And Art Come To New Haven

This week saw the end of an era in Cuba, as Raul Castro stepped down from the presidency on Thursday. During the island’s decades of comparative isolation, film and art have offered rare glimpses into life in Cuba.

This month, New Haven is hosting two events with ties to the island.

The newest movie by acclaimed Cuban filmmaker Ernesto Daranas is inspired by true events. In 1991, as the USSR was collapsing and Cuba was entering an economic crisis, a ham radio operator on the island unexpectedly made contact with a stranded Russian cosmonaut.

Daranas visits Yale University for a retrospective of his workand a Q&A after a screening of his movie Sergio and Sergei, which explores the effect of major world events on ordinary human lives.

Not far from Yale’s campus, in the city’s second Cuba-themed event, three Connecticut visual artists share their visions of separate trips they took to the island. The show, called Cuba Adrift, includes photographs, fabric pieces, and encaustic art.

“Encaustic is an art form that is quite ancient --painting with pigmented waxes,” said artist Roberta Friedman. “I felt that encaustic -- layering waxes, putting on, taking off, putting back on -- exemplified the neglect, the layering, the colors, and the make-do attitude I experienced when I was in Cuba.”

One of her a pieces is called ‘Its Complicated.’

“That was phrase that we heard over and over again,” she said. “The political situation is complicated, the living situation, the impact of the embargo, all of those things are complications.”

Another piece in the show is a quilt depicting a decaying building juxtaposed by a vibrantly green tree and two classic cars. Fiber artist Sue Millen said it was created to reflect Cuban resourcefulness.

“I used whatever fabrics I had. And as I worked on it, if I saw that I wanted to make the quilt bigger, instead of redoing that piece, I just added on...and not worry about the threads, the fringe that was hanging off, which I normally would have been very careful about.”

And alongside the work of Friedman and Millen are photographs by Hank Paper.

“They all share a very similar color palette which is so reflective of Cuba,” said Paper. “The oranges and the blues and the shades of brown. It’s a brilliant color spectrum when you visit Havana.”

Cuba Adrift runs at City Gallery through the end of April. The retrospective of work by Cuban filmmaker Ernesto Daranas takes place April 27 – 29.

Arts & Culture CubaThe Daily
Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.

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