Bordering a scarcely paved street, with small houses worn out by the years, is the gallery of Michel Mirabal, one among the Cuban painters with the best international projection within the last years.
Mirabal decided to establish his studio on the outskirts of the Havana town of Guanabo, on a plot of land where there had been nothing before. Only dust, dirt and a steep slope. He did it for a reason that resides on his roots. He named his studio Finca Calunga.
“I used to be born in a marginal neighborhood. I do know what it’s to live in a spot where there are every day problems. Once I began on this planet of art and sold my first works I all the time said that I might like to work with children,” Mirabal said to OnCuba in one among the corners of his gallery.
“I had a grandfather who all the time taught me that children are an important thing. That’s why I founded this place to welcome children and young people. This was a mountain where there was nothing and little by little, with a number of effort, we built this dream that today is a reality,” he added.
For the artist, “it’s about sharing what life has given me with my work with people like me, who were born in marginal neighborhoods. They’re the ‘social cases’ that exist in lots of places. Many individuals who come from other provinces on this community live in makeshift houses and kids sometimes stop going to high school. You see those things and take a look at to support what you may. Also with orphaned children.”
Within the context of the Havana Biennial, the painter received in his gallery United Arab Emirates Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Yacoub Yousef Hassan Al Hosani, along with a delegation from his country. Mirabal talked with the visitors about his creative process and told anecdotes about his works and the interest they’ve aroused amongst several heads of state and personalities in various parts of the world.
Then they toured the gallery and he showed them the pieces of his new exhibition inaugurated in the primary days of the Biennial. On the meeting, the delegation from the United Arab Emirates thanked the host with an installation of culinary art with typical dishes of their country.
Mirabal has exhibited in quite a few countries and has a gallery in Austin, Colorado, where he must return in the approaching months. During his stay in the USA he has grow to be friends with figures of American culture and other artistic circles. In his exchanges, he says, the “Cuba” issue has all the time been present.
“I actually have all the time painted the Cuban flag, so it is usually logical that they ask me quite a bit about my country. Journalists outside of Cuba have tried to get me to say what’s and what isn’t. But what I actually have to say about my country I say it here. It doesn’t seem right to speak in regards to the things that occur in my house, but I respect those who do it. It’s not my case,” Mirabal says and recalls an anecdote linking his work to U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
“Trump bought one among my works in 2001, belonging to the Manos series. I feel it was through his son, who bought it from a Cuban in a gallery in New York. That remained on the Web and the media retook it when he reached the presidency. Obama has two. One donated by the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, and one other that I sent him. Then he wrote me a really nice letter that I keep.”
What are your primary concerns in regards to the present and way forward for Cuba?
I don’t need to see a Burger King or a McDonald’s in my country. I would like more freedom for Cubans, but I might not like Cuba to be stuffed with the things which can be in the entire world. I might not like Cubans to lose the necessity to smile or receive individuals with kindness. I also don’t just like the speed the world has, that’s why after I leave I all the time attempt to return to Cuba soon.
I wish we could fight against our problems and never wait for a crisis to open other doors. With crisis or without crisis, we’ve to open doors so that individuals can prosper through their very own effort and have the standard of life they deserve.
Do you are feeling recognized in Cuba?
Not enough. I might love for people to know more about my work and have more room to indicate my work. That’s the raison d’être of curators or gallerists, but in the event that they don’t take me under consideration it is likely to be because they think that my art doesn’t have the standard to be next to that of other artists. Or possibly due to something else. In the interim, I’m here and take a look at to indicate myself to Cuba and the world.
How have you ever perceived the standard of the works on this Biennial?
I find art anywhere, in any object. In past editions, as I personally told the director of the Biennial, there was a project that was in El Morro and grouped a lot of artists. The general public that visited the positioning could see in a single day many works, but on this Biennial it seems to me that all the things could be very dispersed.