Outsider Artists from Havana

/ 28 March, 2018

Outsider Artists from Havana is a project managed by the Naemi Foundation in close collaboration with specialists from the Frost Art Museum and FIU researchers, which aims to show the artistic production of two of the most recognized Cuban artists in the line of the outsider art: Misleidys Castillo and y Jorge Alberto Hernández Cadi (El Buzo). Each one presents aesthetics and very different themes, according to their respective mental disorders. The interpretation of their special universes in a plastic result coherent with it and the recurrence of a distinctive language, supported by the craft, are the most important concepts that unite them.

(…) “We do not ever see things as they are, we see them as we are” (Anaïs Nin): a human figure repeated dozens of times, and then photographs containing signs of violence, and attatched to them objects found in public trash deposits. If these productions lend themselves to a semiotic analysis, there would surely be coincidental allusions to pop in the first case, or to Dadaism in the second case; however, any academic approach would be misguided if it didn’t question before the fact who the artist is, their intentions, and the discourse which they project. Therefore, the first and very important question lies in that these records write their story about psychological disorders, which replaces all interpretative formulas for decodifying – if intended – their creative universe; and yet this condition is not a total determinant for the final result of their work, constituting a palliative to consciously define an ideoaesthetic intent –although it constitutes a visual order, and an artistic problem – evidently raised in an external reading. For this type of creation, which mostly arises in situations of marginality, of academies and the art market, researchers have assumed the term outsider (those from outside), coined by Roger Cardinal in 1972, a concept – according to Graciela García – “slippery and uncomfortable but (…) unifying,” which can be used in the systematization of this practice, overcoming the limits per se of all terminological innovation. This and similar things such as psychopathological painting, visionary art and outsider art, among others, include as a fundamental platform the definitions realized for Art Brut by the French artist Jean Dubuffet, who in 1949 understood the phenomenon as “an operation completely pure, unrefined, raw and totally reinvented in every one of their phrases through the only means that are themselves the artists’ own impulses”; criterion as naive and generalized as his idea of cultural non-contamination of these constructs, when an isolated condition or a disease may not necessarily significantly affect the relationship of the individual with the external environment and, consequently, the cultural. In any case – and in these poetics even more – the action of putting rhetoric and cultural heritage before sensitivity could only fill with arrogance the activity of the critic-outsider to become a real intruder, with a look that is totally and ironically that of an outsider.”[1]


naemi is dedicated to discovering, studying, promoting, exhibiting, and preserving the art of those struggling with mental illness throughout the world. The “art of the mentally ill” as defined for the purposes of naemi, refers to the art produced by individuals, usually self-taught and without any formal artistic training, whose work arises from an intense, innate personal vision. Through public exhibitions naemi seeks to educate the public about this art and to aid in overcoming and dispelling any negative bias associated with the circumstances of its production and to affirm the positive power and importance of the creativity of individuals experiencing mental illnesses. Established in 1988 in Miami, Florida, naemi usa has founded naemi españa in Spain. Every year, our Annual Art Exhibition in Miami receives around 900 entries from all over the USA, Spain, England, Argentina, Paraguay, Mexico, Brazil, and Chile.

naemi has in its permanent collection nearly 1000 art works. Art experts in the field have carefully curated this collection during the past 23 years. naemi has published 5 books about the art of the mentally ill. The books spotlight most often for the first time some of the world’s most talented artists suffering from mental illness. naemi has done pioneering work in recognizing the artistic talent among many individuals suffering from mental illness and provides a forum for bringing these talents to public awareness.

[1] Fragments of words to the catalog.



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