Coming to the town of Jaimanitas in the outskirts of Havana and entering the house of the multifaceted Cuban plastic artist José Fuster can be a challenge for eyes not used to seeing beyond the obvious. An endless number of handmade sculptures made of flagstone and glass and other countless objects made by Fuster welcomed us at his cherished Fusterlandia, a place which allows the dreamer to imagine things beyond what this planet allows him to see. After an introductory coffee, this modern prophet agreed to answer our questions.
On many occasions you have been referred to as the Picasso of the Caribbean. What do you think of that? During the 90´s there was an American journalist who did a small chronicle on Cuba for the New York Times in which he spoke about surrealism and cubism, and said: “We are in the presence of the Picasso of the Carribean, at about 90 miles from the United States”, that is where the nickname was born; some others call me the Cuban Gaudí. In 2001 another American by the name of Mark Sorensen directed a documentary on my work titled “The Picasso of the Caribbean”, which stirred up a lot of reactions at a festival in California. Personally, I do not consider myself to be the Caribbean version of this big Spanish artist; I do have some influences but that is all.
How did the idea to turn your house and neighborhood into a live museum come up?
I was inspired by a visit to Romania in 1976 as cultural commissioner. While I was there I saw creations of the Rumanian scupltor Constantin Brancussi in a hotel. Works of his such as Tower to Infinity, The Kiss´ Door, The Table of Silence all impressed me and I decided then that when my economic situation improved I would create something similar.
Along those lines, for example, The Table of Silence became The Noisy Table in order to make it more Cuban. With time my pieces grew in number, I even started using walls in my neighborhood, today referred to as Fusterlandia. Teh messages are ot only visual, but educational.
How did Jaimanitas, your adoptive home, influence your work and projects?
Jaimanitas became the ideal place in which to carry out my work, although I would have done it no matter where I was. Yet in Jaimanitas I feel like what Pablo (Milanés) says in one of his songs: “If I have to die I want it to be with you”. It is the place in which I was destined to be. Caibarién, where I was born, is also a coastal town, so it was easy for me to stay here.
We know Fuster the painter, engraver, ceramist, designer, among other talents. Which do you identify mostly with?
With all of them. I am not any one and, at the same time, I am all. I have turned into something to which I dedicated my youth: art instructor. That is when I learned culture along with my colleagues who are now excellent artists, such as Eduardo Roca (Choco), Zayas, García Peña, among others. I feel that I am an instructor, art is my refuge.
Brancussi and Picasso had a strong influence on you: how do you think future generations of artists will see your work?
In 1998 I wrote a text on a wall, a message for new generations: “Welcome to the present and the future, here we are and here is where we will be”. My biggest preoccupation is not the future, but to do things now so that they can be useful later. I believe in young people and it seems to me that the only way of honoring them is by working. Right now I have a number of projects such as creating the biggest mural in the world, along with artists such as Nelson Domínguez, Kcho, Roberto Fabelo, among others. If in 10, 20 or 40 years new generations find meaning in what I am doing now, then I will have achieved my goal. My gift for Jaimanitas and the world is the work we are doing today, with the sole objective of offering our love to the future.