Michel Mirabal, who was born in a tenement house within the Cayo Hueso neighborhood of Havana, remembers that as a baby he “felt an amazing twitching in his hands” that only subsided when he began to attract. That’s why “while I waited for my turn to bat within the pick-up ball games that sprung up on any corner, I’d take out my little notebook and commenced scribbling.” He says that such was his desire to precise things that when he was about six years old, he refused to speak for about three months and only communicated through drawings: “I used to be fascinated by that have since it gave me the likelihood for people to know me through my drawings,” he says with a mix of pride and mischief.
The visual arts world opened up for him when he was still a design student; he began working with maestro Omar Corrales, one of the crucial renowned set designers on the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC). “That have lifted me up and it was the precise moment through which I started to design and to color and to know chiaroscuro and large-format art. It’s a parallel world through which I used to be lucky to give you the chance to grow, create, and perform the work.” As a curiosity, it’s price noting that even today, the fifteen-meters-tall sets used on the BNC in the several versions of the emblematic ballet Swan Lake are the work of Michel Mirabal.
But his time on the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) was also decisive in his formation. There he worked as a storyboard artist, whose role is to be by the director’s side, making sketches on demand; obviously, it’s a specialty that requires a rigorous training within the art of drawing.
Originally of his profession Michel Mirabal created a personality that, for an prolonged period, was the middle of his attention: it was a hand that might have feet and a head and that “went all over the world doing and undoing like humans do, that’s, disrupting, decomposing, loving and in addition killing.” It’s a series, he says, that reminds him of “very nice memories” and that he dedicated to the mother of his first daughter. Then got here the multimedia photographic series of the streets of Havana and the interiors of the solares (housing tenements).
Then his flags appeared, and at this point in our conversation something clouds his eyes because there have been, he assures, “incomprehensions” and folks who “have certain misperceptions” and who see and detect ghosts where there are none: “There are wires and flowers in every country and, actually, in my work the flowers grow over and neutralize the wires.” He acknowledges that his artwork might be controversial yet “very honest” and his intention in coping with different topics is as mature because it is reflective: “not from the position of a foul boy who desires to attract attention. That’s not the concept.”
This artist, with an imposing physical presence given his size and gesticulations, raises his voice and speaks in a really Cuban manner, saying that he’s “willing to take part in every thing he’s called to: I like my country and every thing about this island and although I represent my country to the world, I won’t allow anybody to talk in poor health of Cuba, whether what they are saying is true or not. I’m completely open to participating in any project that I’m invited to.”
Nowadays he’s busy preparing a private exhibition as a part of the collateral events of the thirteenth Havana Biennial, to be held in April. “In the course of the days of the Biennial,” he says, “my front door will probably be wide open to receive anyone who wishes to see my work up close.” And surely there will probably be speak about art and culture broadly because Michel is a wonderful host who receives many visitors with pleasure: “At my house I’ve hosted people from the King of Morocco to famous Hollywood movie stars.” His large-scale pieces might be present in the collections of necessary institutions akin to the Rockefeller Foundation and the Effective Arts museums of Medellín and Bogotá in Colombia, in addition to the Martin Luther King and Afro-American foundations in New York. His artwork is an element of the private collections of necessary figures within the worlds of culture, sports, and business, akin to Gabriel García Márquez, Mohamed Ali, Danny Glover, Angela Mizzoni, Quincy Jones, and guitarist Carlos Santana, amongst others. President Barack Obama was presented with considered one of his pieces during his visit to Havana in March 2016.
Michel Mirabal, who currently works with two necessary galleries within the US—one in Aspen, Colorado, and one other in Miami—emanates his work from there to the world, but without losing— “not even for a moment!”—his very humble Cuban upbringing.
Perhaps that’s the reason he decided to construct his house-gallery in the neighborhood of Marbella, a small town on the highest of a hill near Guanabo beach, a long way east of Havana. He has developed some initiatives—in coordination with the local authorities and the State—that bring joy and culture to life there. His home is “all the time open” to 3 orphanages that he stresses are well-run by the State. “I invite them to color, I cook spaghetti, or all of us go to go to the National Museum of Effective Arts or to Varadero. I also listen to the community’s elders. I feel that it is a small approach to give back after how much life has given me,” he concludes emphatically.
Studio address: Avenida las Américas 2E and Final, Reparto Ampliación de Marbella, Guanabo, Habana del Este
E-mail: [email protected]
This text is included within the 51st Edition of OnCubaTravel Magazine: