This photo exhibition explores perceptions of Cuba, an island that relies heavily on tourism to bolster its economy. The beauty and intrigue of Cuba's rural and urban landscapes are showcased, with text that further investigates the complexities of daily life on the island. The show encourages viewers to look closer, to see beyond the travel stereotypes and clichés, into a diverse and striving culture.

Yael Prizant is a dramaturg, translator, teacher, and advocate for the arts. Her primary area of research is Cuban theatre since the fall of the Soviet Union and she translates the work of Cuban playwright Abel González Melo. She studied dramaturgy at UMASS Amherst and worked as a literary manager in Los Angeles for many years. In 2007, she earned her Ph.D. at UCLA and currently works as an Assistant Professor at the University of Notre Dame. She is also a proud co-founder of Ultreia, Inc., a non-profit organization that supports artistic and educational endeavors that serve the South Bend community.

Christopher Stackowicz is an artist specializing in painting and interactive panoramic photography. His primary area of research is creating interactive photographs and applications for display, research, and as a vehicle for better understanding the site of antiquity. He has worked for the past 13 years as an editor, photographer, web designer, and interactive media specialist for Dr. Robin Rhodes on his Greek Architecture at Corinth project. He has also worked on a variety of projects for the American School of Classical Studies in Athens as a conservation photographer and as the editor and coordinator for the upcoming Athenian Agora Site Guide iBook, the interactive panoramic photographer for the SHARP project at Korphos, and for the Snite Museum. As a painter, his work is owned by numerous collections and has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. He had and has participated in over 100 shows since his MFA in 2002. As a Notre Dame alumnus and longtime area resident, Christopher is very active in the local arts community and his work can be seen all over town. He is currently working on the Marian devotional ceiling fresco at Queen of Peace in Osceola and the outdoor public mural at Bar Louie at University Park Mall. Christopher is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Visual Arts at Bethel College. He earned his BFA from Notre Dame in 1999 and his MFA from Stony Brook University in 2002.

The Currency of Cuba
August 26 - October 4, 2012
The Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley
3202 Shalom Way
South Bend, IN 46615

Title: Ruedas
Size: 20 X 14

Saturate color is Cuba’s signature. It is a reminder of how light transforms our perspectives, how hues are merely mixtures of tones and they’re seasonal and they fade, and how skin is affected by the sun.

Title: Los Jovenes del Mar
Size: 14 X 20

Before the sun yields to two white flashes every 15 seconds, two sun-bronzed bodies troll the narrow entrance to Havana harbor, seeking sustenance.

Title: Estudiantes
Size: 20 X 14

One-room schoolhouses still educate the majority of Cuba’s children… and their national literacy rate remains over 95%.

Title: Los Niveles de la Historia
Size: 14 X 20

An idiosyncratic Havana mosaic. Once a Jewish cultural center, this building is now named after a 1940s era Marxist playwright/theatre director whose manifestos on dramaturgy altered modern theatrical thinking. And its windows reflect a modern high-rise, where capitalism looms.

Title: La Flor Brillante
Size: 14 X 20

“I am alone…. I look for yellow shadows in the sea.” Cuban singer Polito Ibáñez

Title: Relojero Kiki
Size: 20 X 14

On my first visit to Cuba, my watch stopped. Or so I thought. Actually, the intense humidity had simply slowed the mechanism so much its movements were nearly imperceptible.

I paid a Cuban swim-instructor-turned-watch-repairman, with a kiosk much like this one, three cents to open my wristwatch, take out the battery, and blow dry the internal mechanism to get it running. I did this three times a week for a month. And heard his best stories.

Title: El Barbudo
Size: 14 X 20

“Charm is a product of the unexpected.” Cuban poet and independence leader José Martí

Title: Cayo Granma
Size: 20 X 14

When we missed our ferry back to the mainland, we found a local water taxi that would illicitly take us off of Cayo Granma. We shared the rickety boat with a weathered Afro-Cuban woman jubilantly brandishing a throng of fresh fish strung on a wire. She smiled and they shimmered, like a choker made of precious gems.

Title: Una Calle
Size: 20 X 14

Whose history is it, anyway?

Title: Callejon Hamel
Size: 20 X 14

There is a poem on a wall of this painted alleyway that captures the sensuality of this seat of rumba. It reads:
I Want to Be
I want to be the sun
To penetrate your warmth
And to kiss your sweat
I want to be the one
Who lovingly
Strips your clothing
I want to be
A traveler of your body
To open your petals
With my lips
And nap in your nature

Title: La Guardia del Granma
Size: 20 X 14

Cuba’s patron saint, La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, first appeared to two brothers and their slave. After praying when their tiny boat was caught in a storm, they found a statue floating in the water. It was the Virgin Mary and had the following inscription: I am the Virgin of Charity. And, although submerged, it was completely dry. A small chapel was built to house it, yet when the men came to visit, the statue was gone. The next morning, it was back on the altar. This happened three times, so they moved the statue to El Cobre. But the disappearance of the statue continued, until it was found near the Sierra Maestra mountains. A sanctuary was erected there and La Virgen remained. It was also where Cuba’s slaves were set free, its revolts against the Spaniards began, and Cuban revolutionaries fought Batista’s army.

Title: Corno Francés
Size: 14 X 20

There is an audible quality to Havana that separates it from all other places in the world. Its streets supply a jumbled concoction of mechanical, musical, nautical, and anthropological reverberations that provide a soundtrack for life in the city. But snippets of dynamic music always seem to lilt above the din, to demand attention amid the cacophony.

Title: Despacho
Size: 14 X 20

Once upon a time, which Cuban citizens had keys to call boxes like this one?

Title: Sala de Espera Teatral
Size: 20 X 14

When the empty lobby is so dramatic it must be staffed at all times, imagine what might happen inside the theatre.

Title: El Camino
Size: 14 X 20

The stone-paved paths of Cayo Granma made me keenly aware of my own buoyant humility. Simplicity, slowness, and tranquility seemed perpetual and were contagious on this tiny island.

Title: El Huerfano de Obrapia
Size: 20 X 14

Cuban bici-taxis make me reconsider the word “peddler”. Along with leg strength, urban agility, bits of foreign languages, and good humor are their trading commodities.

Title: El Héroe
Size: 14 X 20

Many Cuban artists remark that they live among spectacular, grandiose statues of heroes. I often wonder how growing up with so many of these ubiquitous shrines to incredible men, these elaborate tributes to near mythological characters, shapes modern identities.

Title: Edificio Bacardí
Size: 20 X 14

As the stock market crashed and prohibition loomed over the U.S., this titanic pink granite skyscraper implored, “Come to Cuba and bathe in Bacardí rum.”

Today, it’s very pretty, heavily secured office space.

Title: Los Angelitos
Size: 14 X 20

Raphael was an archangel mentioned by Judaic, Catholic and Islamic religions as performing all manners of healing.

No wonder this idyllic spot, at the highest elevation on this little island, radiated inestimable serenity.

Title: Vete a un Convento
Size: 20 X 14

Who would’ve guessed that this exquisite building was constructed as a convent. On a non-descript stretch of city street, its details delight and surprise.

Title: Espiral Descendente
Size: 14 X 20

Railing

Title: Anuncio Cubano
Size: 20 X 14

The value of culture in Cuba? The hero of their independence movement was a famous poet, José Martí. A literary figure, and his lyricism, led the nation to free itself from colonialism.

Title: El Papalote
Size: 14 X 20

Abel and his sister Haydee Santamaría lived four blocks from where I stay in Havana. Their two-room apartment was the headquarters for the 26th of July Movement (M-26-7) that started the Cuban Revolution. Abel was captured during the attack on the Moncada barracks (next to the park pictured here) in 1953. Seeking information, Batista’s soldiers tortured and eventually killed Abel, who wore distinctive thick glasses. Apparently the soldiers removed Abel’s eyeball and brought it to his captive sister Haydee, hoping to convince her to talk. Her response? You took out his eye and he told you nothing. Why would I?

Title: 23 y 14
Size: 20 X 14

I always associate places like this with cold Cuban beer. Using German technology, Cerveceria Bucanero (Buccaneer beer maker, the only one in Cuba) was founded in the 1980s. A can of Bucanero (it comes in bottles, too) usually costs around $1 at a place like this. I’ve never seen it outside of the island, but their website claims it’s exported to 21 countries.

Title: Vedado
Size: 14 X 20

I notice my feet in Havana. Because it is difficult to walk without looking down, stepping becomes the experience. The ground feels different in different parts of town and the sidewalks reveal the hierarchies that have always been. Speed is impossible, or irrelevant, and contact is inevitable. You cannot sleepwalk through Havana. It demands consciousness.

Title: La Vista del Faró
Size: 20 X 14

I wonder if intense physical beauty softens the daily frustration of inevitability. Can a landscape be sardonic?

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