"Cuba Stories" Opens Tonight with Limited Run

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Get a glimpse of the beauty of Cuba—without the cost of a plane ticket or hassle of a passport—with tonight’s opening of Cuba Stories, the debut photography exhibition from artist Sue Keating. Featuring 34 large-scale works in color and black and white, the show hangs for three days at 500 Tallevast Road, behind CopyTalk, and documents Keating’s weeklong journey through the neighborhoods of the island nation.

Growing up in Florida, with Cuba a mere 90 miles away but forbidden, the island remained a “tantalizing” dream for much of Keating’s life, until she joined a Ringling College of Art and Design “art tour” of Cuba, along with eight others and a Ringling College photography professor, Elena de la Ville. In the mornings, the group convened for conversation and artistic feedback; by night, they explored the island, with Keating going for solitary walks through the many neighborhoods and markets. An avid world traveler, she’s been kidnapped before, she says, but never felt unsafe in Cuba.

It became an opportunity for the painter to discover a knack for photography, and Keating found herself instantly enamored by the world around her, turning the camera’s lens to all manner of patterns, colors and textures. “I really tried to make the photographs as painterly as possible,” she says.

Keating avoided some things as well, and audiences will notice a marked absence of people from most images, with the artist’s eye more drawn to Cuba as a place than as a people—and definitely not as politics. As a visitor, Keating eschewed any attempts to capture “real Cuba” or “old Cuba” or “new Cuba”—or comment on any of the myriad political questions that have consumed much of the nation’s history. This past can’t be erased, but Keating approaches it from an aesthetic standpoint, where the layers of paint on a single building say as much as disparate architectural styles crumbling side-by-side in a neighborhood. “And all of that layering is peeling,” she says. “This is both visually beautiful and heart-breaking.” Like layers of time, she says, they peel back to reveal a history of occupation and perseverance. “The amount of decay is profound,” Keating says, “but the amount of artisanship that went into it is unbelievable.”

And, above it all, she says, the culture of the Caribbean shines through, in all its dazzling color and light.

Cuba Stories by Sue Keating opens tonight at 500 Tallevast Road from 5:30pm to 9pm, and then shows on Friday, July 6, and Saturday, July 7, from 11am to 2pm. RSVPs are requested at Sue@SueKeating.com.

Pictured: "Big Red Umbrella" by Sue Keating. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

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