Havana walls brought to life with murals of wide-eyed children


Reuters

By Sarah MarshHAVANA, April 21 (Reuters) - The gigantic black and white
portraits of children started appearing on walls around a
suburban neighborhood of Havana two years ago, the work of Cuban
artist Maisel Lopez.
    The sober, finely painted portraits contrast with Cuba's
dilapidated buildings and pot-holed streets, colorful vintage
cars and peeling pink, apricot and turquoise paint on eclectic
architecture.
    With nearly 30 murals completed, Lopez said he is only
getting started on his "Colossi" series, a striking endeavor in
the Communist-run country where street art is rare.
    "I want to keep expanding further afield," said Lopez, 31,
who started painting the walls of homes and shops in his home
district of Playa and is now completing his first mural in
neighboring Marianao.
    A chubby girl with wispy blond hair wistfully rests her chin
on her hands, while a black boy with angular features peers at
passersby with a slight air of defiance.
    The murals are unusual in a country where public spaces are
tightly controlled and posters and murals mainly have political
themes or depict figures like Ernesto "Che" Guevara.
    Only one other artist in Havana, Yulier Rodriguez, has an
equally recognizable assortment of street art. His figures are
alien, the murals colorful. Lopez's subjects are realistic and
monochrome.
    Lopez said in an interview last week that political art led
him to paint murals. He helped with several celebrating the
Bolivarian revolution during a cultural mission in 2009 to
Cuba's socialist ally Venezuela.
    "A mural is constantly in interaction with the public," said
Lopez, whose work is inspired by Cuban independence hero Jose
Marti, who said "children are the hope of the world".
    "That's why I paint the children big, to mark their
importance," he said.
    Unlike many street artists, including Rodriguez, Lopez seeks
permits to paint on walls. While initially hard to get, he
gained trust as he developed the series, he said.
    Each colossus is several meters tall and takes Lopez four
days to a week to paint. Each depicts a child living in the
vicinity. He does not charge to paint them.
    Instead, he earns a living teaching art classes and selling
canvas portraits that can fetch up to $1500.
    Locals have declared themselves fans and guardians of his
work, looking after it as people stop to take photographs.
    "It's really striking and gives life to the street," said
Vivian Herrera, 47, who runs a bakery next to one of the murals.
"It's like the girl is really there, with her big, open eyes."

 (Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Toni Reinhold)
 ((sarah.marsh@thomsonreuters.com; +53 5217 0928; Reuters
Messaging: sarah.marsh.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: CUBA STREETART/ (PIX, TV)



This article appears in: Politics


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