The Sacred Layman and His Risky Metaphors

/ 2 October, 2014

Interview with Esterio Segura


What context influenced all this recognition of religious images, of a popular culture banned by the officialdom?

I was born in Santiago de Cuba, where I lived very little time, because we moved when I was two years old. So I was brought up in Camaguey, a fundamentally Christian city where there are more than thirty churches. I do not come from a “strictly religious” family and I do not practice a specific religion. I do belong to a family that, like many Cuban families, has participated in all religions. But in the bosom of my family what was proclaimed was communism.

(…)That entire hodgepodge existed and the first sacred images I saw were those in my house, not precisely in churches. Then, when I was 12 or 13 years old, I began to use my “artistic” power of reason and began to visit churches in Camaguey and, at the same time, museums. It was in a library where I first discovered that what was in the churches were not only religious images, but also art.

(…)When I finished the middle level in art school, I was face up to a dilemma: I made a work I assumed as such, although it was school work, and I considered myself professionally ready to face the capital and what was happening. (…)

Was it then you adopted a position as artist-questioner?

(…) I was also close to being thrown out of school because of my political arguments having to do with culture, with politics in general. Very youthful arguments perhaps, very childish, but I did have my questionings, my points of view. I have my point of view on the political phenomena Cuba has gone through. On the political phenomena Cuba is. And that made me take more responsible classes on philosophy, on aesthetics.

(…) All that mixed little by little and formed in my a head a point of departure for the work, and I decided that if I was going to approach religiosity, it would not be from a language Wifredo Lam or Belkis Ayón had already used; I was going to do it with a less dealt with point of view: that of Christian religion, which is the shell that served Afro culture to grow in America. And also as an aesthetic image: up to what point the methods for the representation of political kitsch have much to do with representation elements of the religious baroque (…).

How did Titón reach your work, or how did you reach the film, and what did it mean to be part of a paradigmatic motion picture? How did the assumptions of the film connected with what you were doing in your work?

In July 1992 I had my first solo exhibition in Havana, in 23 and 12 Gallery, in ICAIC’s premises, with the first important pieces I made in my first three years in ISA (…). Many of those involved in cinema attended and people left me interesting notes on the show. I have been told that the production team had met and were assessing what visual artist from the last generations was consistent with the film. Three of them mentioned my name. That was how one day, when I was in the studio, Titón arrived with part of his team to see my work, talk and suggest that I made or produced the pieces for the film. (…)

Onedys Calvo

Onedys Calvo

She holds a master’s degree in Art History. Lives and works in Havana. She is a curator with the City Historian’s Office and contributes to various specialized publications, such as Artecubano, Revolución y Cultura and OPUS Habana. She also contributes to the radio station Habana Radio as a journalist, and is the director of the Center for Interpretation of Cuba-Europe Relations, Palacio del Segundo Cabo, Havana.

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