Extraordinary Echoes of Cuba

A Global Impression
of our Cultural Hemisphere

Through October 31
Clearwater Main Library
Details here

High on the bluff along Coachman Park’s walkways by the Clearwater Main Library entrance, the City of Clearwater has mounted mural-size images depicting artworks derived from two concurrent Cuba-related exhibitions.

These enticing murals offer a glimpse of the fabulous display within the Library’s art galleries, running now through October 31.

Clyde Butcher’s Cuba: The Natural Beauty, The Photographic Expeditions of Clyde Butcher is an eye-opening photography show of works captured in a country of seclusion.

In harmony with the photography exhibit is El Arte: Echoes of Cuba – a collection of expressive paintings from award-winning artists including Ybor City native José Rodeiro and 18 Tampa Bay Cuban American artists. The varied styles offer imaginative works with a flair for passion.

Jose Roderio’s “Ochun Asleep” billboard in Clearwater – image courtesy of City of Clearwater (CRA)

Acclaimed curator Tarin Mohajeri worked with the City of Clearwater Community Redevelopment Agency based on her involvement with successful recent Clyde and Niki Butcher exhibits at the downtown library.

Mohajeri says, “I was given the privilege to curate a show to complement Clyde Butcher’s Cuba: The Natural Beauty exhibit. I curated all the art in the two hallways – the oil paintings, pastels, sculpture, all of that.

“Along with Clyde Butcher, the other artists are mostly local, a lot of Cuban American artists. The way that it worked, I contacted one Cuban American artist and they would say ‘hey I have two friends’ and those friends would contact their friends so it’s a really big artist network.”

The exhibit includes paintings in oil, pastel, ink, acrylic, as well as photography and sculpture that utilizes Cuban and Cuban American themes and subjects.

When asked about her goal for the exhibit, she replies, “My goal honestly is to bring lots of new people to downtown Clearwater. I know there’s a lot of art lovers and tourists who will come down and spend time on a Friday or Saturday.”

All photography and artworks have interpretive panels describing the specific piece along with bios of the artists. The well-curated collection presents the beauty of the Cuban landscape and emotive expressions from Cuban American artists.

Clyde Butcher billboard in Clearwater – image courtesy of City of Clearwater

Cuba: The Natural Beauty
The Photographic Expeditions of Clyde Butcher

. . .
Clyde Butcher, America’s foremost landscape photographer and Florida resident, enhances the walls with extraordinary photographs from 2002. The United Nations declared 2002 “The Year of the Mountains” and encouraged countries to host environmental discussions on mountain conservation.

Cuba hosted “The Conference for the Sustainable Habitat for the Mountains” for the region including the Americas and Caribbean. The overarching goal was to improve relationships between countries on environmental issues.

Butcher was invited to photograph the mountains of Cuba by the UN Ambassador to Cuba Luis Gomez-Echeverri and John Parke Wright IV of Naples, Florida. With special permissions from both countries, Butcher was granted an artist visa for an adventurous three-week expedition.

With his environmentally conscious spirit, he prepared for the opportunity to use his talents to make a difference in the conservation efforts.

The geography of Cuba is unique and not just flatlands, swamps and palm trees. The island is 745 miles in length compared to Florida’s 447 miles. Mountain ranges, cliffs, forests, jungles and coral coastlines form the land’s topography due to the nearby location of the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates.

Cuba expedition map – courtesy of Clyde Butcher

The Sierra Maestra I photograph composition features a wide view of a mountain range with clouds and vibrant green vegetation at an altitude of nearly 5000 feet. The Sierra Maestra range is the highest mountain range in the Cuban archipelago and one of many sites captured by Butcher’s camera in the Turquino National Park.

A number of backcountry dump truck rides proved worthwhile, although treacherous, for access to the mountainous coast in the park. The Vista de alto de Naranjo photograph is a fine example of the expedition’s hardships and teamwork.

Clyde Butcher’s helpful guide in the dump truck holds an umbrella for the photographer during a rainstorm – photo courtesy of the artist

Near La Palma on the western side, the land has mogotes, steep hill formations of limestone, marble or dolomite. The mogotes were a favorite place of naturalists in the region.

Butcher’s explorations in the Parque Natural Topes de Collantes, near Trinidad, Cuba, with a local in an old Russian jeep uncovered the Salto el Rocio waterfall rarely seen by tourists. This was one of those circumstances where it paid to follow the path less traveled.

Near Santiago de Cuba, the coral coast was an ecosystem that was a desolate region with unique bonsai-like plants. Like much of the expedition, there were many environmental treasures to discover in the three-week time period.

This grand photographic exhibit showcases the varied geography, relying on Butcher’s vision using elements of light aligned with black and white contrast.

An Amnesis Self-portrait with José Martí across from Morro Castle, Havana, by José Rodeiro. Acrylic on Canvas, 20” x 8

El Arte: Echoes of Cuba

. . .
Ybor City native José Rodeiro is the headliner in this Cuban American exhibit of fine art. Rodeiro is an award-winning artist who has taught and exhibited for years in the metropolitan area of New Jersey-New York as well as Florida and Maryland.

In the early 1970s, he held several adjunct professorships as well as instructor positions in Tampa at four institutions – The Tampa Bay Art Center (now the Tampa Museum of Art), University of South Florida’s School of Art and Art Historys and the University of Tampa’s Department of Art and Design, as well as Hillsborough Community College’s Visual Arts and Design Department on the Ybor City campus.

Rodeiro says “I retired from New Jersey City University where I was a professor of art and art history. As soon as I retired, I came back to the place of my birth. I was born in Ybor City in Tampa so I decided to move back to the Tampa Bay area. I now live in St. Petersburg, near the water.”

Waiting for Rum and Coke by Jose Rodeiro

When asked if his parents were Cuban American, he replies “Yes, on both sides. Both my parents were Cuban. My mother’s great-grandfather, François “Pancho” Ledon, was born in Santiago, Cuba. He was the guy that would carry the flag for José Marti. My father’s mother was born outside of Havana, on a farm.

“My piece Stampede on a Cuban Ranch has to do with the memory of my grandmother’s life, on being a farmer and having animals. That piece in the show relates in a way to my grandmother. And sometimes the animals did get out of hand, they would all start running around.”

The gouache polyptych of four interrelated framed panels creates one piece of exceptional art. His artworks are painted with oil, acrylics or gouache mediums.

detail of Jose Rodeiro’s “Stampede on a Cuban Ranch,” a larger polyptych

There are 19 total visual artists whose work styles the El Arte: Echoes of Cuba collection. The full list is –

Eldo Alvarez
Alex Espalter-Torres
Bill Cadzow
Ben Cardoso
Jenny Carey
Yamira Castellano
Jorge Dans
Patricia Kluwe Derderian
A. Galban
Pedro Hernandez
Teresita Hightower
Ileana Prosper Holman
Ginny B. Otto
Chase Parker
Yusel Quesada
Lynn Rattray
José Rodeiro
Rey Rojas
Maykel Vargas

Visitors will ponder paintings in different mediums, mixed media, photographs taken in Havana, sculpture, and more – all with the passion and rhythm of Cuban American spirit.

Ben Cardoso’s Dancing in La Habana was inspired by a Cuban singer who defected after the revolution and settled in the United States. It reflects her happy dance, with a deeper meaning.

Dancing in La Habana by Ben Cardoso

Fire in the Sky by Alex Espalter-Torres is a multi-colored pastel representing a hot pop of heat after a thunderstorm. It is one of several of his works in the exhibit.

Patricia Kluwe Derderian’s Ybor City painting offers a bright street scene that locals will admire.

Photographer Jenny Carey visited Havana in 2016. Her photographs on rag paper from that time convey historic architecture along with a sense of abandonment.

Cuban Warrior by Rey Rojas

Wire sculptor Rey Rojas was born in Havana. He learned to build wire figures from his mom. His Cuban Warrior sculpture was built during the quarantine, representing courage and survival.

The combined displays of El Arte: The Echoes of Cuba and Cuba: The Natural Beauty provide a global impression of our cultural hemisphere as it relates to today’s world. Although few may travel to Cuba, its people are dear to our Florida hearts.
. . .

Coming August 16 – Clyde Butcher will sign books at the Clearwater Main Library and give a free lecture at the Nancy and David Bilheimer Capital Theatre. Details soon at downtownclearwater.com/cubaexhibits

. . .
Clearwater Main Library
100 N Osceola Ave
Clearwater FL 33755

Library Hours
Monday-Thursday, 10 am-7 pm
Friday-Saturday 12-5 pm


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