Rey Alvarado, Craig Barber, Anna Mia Davidson, Elaine
Ling, Lois Pierris, Lisette Solorzano
Benham Gallery offers an unprecedented look at the realities of life
in Cuba from six photographers who create images in this much mythologized
country. The exhibition features a rich range of approaches-from documentary
to fine art, pinhole to large format, color and black and white—by internationally
renowned and locally recognized photographers.
"Cuba is a place surrounded in mystery and rumors, and these artists
really go beyond that," says gallery director Marita Holdaway. "Their
work delves deeper than the stereotypes-good and bad-and shows a culture
on the cusp of huge change-from an isolated communist/socialist island
to a consumerist, capitalist country that's being transformed by dollar
bills and globalization." Due to recent world events, Cuba hasn't
been the focus of much media attention lately, notes Holdaway. "WeÕre
forgetting about the blockade and its effects, so this exhibition will
help remind people of what's really going on there." All of the artists,
including Lissette Solorzano of Cuba, will be present at the opening reception
on Thursday, February 6.
Rey Alvarado, a Port Townsend-based photographer, focuses on daily
life and the spirit of the Cuban people in his high-contrast, vibrant
color images. "Cuba really is a place trapped between the past and
the future," he remarks. "ItÕs a time capsule where grandeur
rubs shoulders with decline." He largely shoots on the street with
35mm Leica and Contax range finders and aims to represent the "dignity,
love and soulfulness of the common person in Cuba." He is a documentary
and on-location commercial photographer who has worked throughout the
Caribbean, Egypt, Morocco and Europe.
New York-based fine art photographer and educator Craig Barber
creates graceful, enigmatic images from homemade pinhole cameras constructed
of cardboard and tape. The negatives are made into platinum prints, a
technique that evokes the look of 19th century photographs. The inherent
bluriness of the images produces imprecise scenes, which mimic a dream
state or dimly recalled memories. "For the past 40 years America
has been obsessed with the political climate of Cuba while understanding
little about the people, their culture, or their land," he says.
"My project, 'Havana Passage', is about observing, understanding
and documenting the cultural landscape before globalization begins to
impact Havana. As the world becomes more homogenized I feel the need to
photograph that which is unique." His work has been exhibited widely
in the U.S., Europe and Latin America, and is featured in the permanent
collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the New York Public
Library; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Brooklyn Museum of Art,
Seattle-based freelance photographer Anna Mia Davidson uses her
photography to create dialogue, social change and to document the lives
of endangered cultures in transition. Her 35mm black and white project,
"Beyond The Clich¾: The Positive Influences from the Cuban Revolution,"
received sponsorship from the Blue Earth Alliance, a Seattle organization
which supports photographic projects that inform the public about endangered
cultures, threatened environments and social issues. "We only get
the one-sided, negative view of Cuba in this country, so I shoot the positive
remnants of the communist/socialist legacy, like the education and health
care systems." Davidson gained tremendous access to Cuba and was
granted permission to enter facilities normally forbidden to outsiders.
Internationally exhibited Chinese-Candian artist Elaine Ling's
black and white 4x5 Polaroid silver gelatin photographs capture the interiors
of homes and religious places. Some images are from the home of a "Muertero,"
a person who communicates with the spirits of the dead. The domestic religious
altars reflect Cuba's complex blend of European Catholic and African traditions.
Havana "is a city caught between the decay of the immediate epoch
and the grandeur of past gloryÉan urban landscape that reflects a similar
struggle between daily life and the slow forces of nature," she remarks.
Ling's work has been exhibited in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Russia and
Mexico, and is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts,
Houston; the Houston Center for Photography; the Brooklyn Museum of Art,
among many others.
Seattle-based Lois Pierris uses a 35mm camera to create slightly
surreal, wholly unexpected images rich with vivid color, light and texture.
"My focus is on exploring the beauty that I see in poor, struggling
societies," she says. "I want to show the contrasts of decay
and beauty, the surreal qualities of places that have been frozen in time
and the sensuality and sadness of the people." Her work is the result
of nine trips to Cuba, and has been featured in group and solo shows in
Washington and California. Two of her images have been used on Starbuck's
"Cafˇ Cubana" CD covers.
Cuban photojournalist Lissette Solorzano creates uncompromising,
hard-hitting images that do not shy away from the weariness and physical
hardships of existence in her native country. Often shooting in the street,
she captures the unposed, unaffected side of Cubans as they go about day-to-day
life working, waiting, playing, talking. She also works as a graphic designer,
and is a member of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC). She won
the Casa de las Am¾ricas Photographic Essay Prize in 1994 and 1996. Her
work has been exhibited in Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Spain and the U.S.