José Manuel García Rebustillos, Painter the Faces of Havana

José Manuel García Rebustillos, Painter the Faces of Havana

Visual Arts

By Reina Magdariaga Larduet / Photos: Courtesy of the artist

Paying tribute to the greatness of what it means to be a woman has been an inspiration for many artists through the ages, a tradition followed by Cuban painter José Manuel García Rebustillos in his colorful female portraits Caras Habaneras (Faces of Havana).

José Manuel García Rebustillos, Painter the Faces of Havana“It's not that I paint women from Havana as such. I refer to Habaneras because I am a native of Havana. It is rather a tribute to all women in the world, regardless of race or social status,” he told Cubaplus.

“I don't work with a specific type of face but rather with a common face with Caribbean colors in which I try to include movement and happiness”, says the artist.

“That's how I see Cuban women, full of life and happiness. I also integrate the mariposa, a flower that is part of our identity, giving it different colors, as I do with the faces of women that I paint.”

“Nevertheless, although they identify me with Havana faces, it is only one out of my 12 series. Among others, I have also painted a series called Callejeando por La Habana (Strolling through Havana), as well as Habana mía (My Havana), Los peces (Fish), Las gordas (Big Women), Los arlequines (The Harlequins) and Los huevos (Eggs).

Painter José Manuel García Rebustillos of Caras Habaneras (Faces of Havana) Callejeando por la Habana is a tribute to Havana, the artist's hometown, “a beautiful, interesting and warm city, and which I wish would be given more life. In the same way, in the Habana mía series, I try to capture and portray Havana.”

The respect this artist has for new generations has converted him into a firm defender of young people.

Rebustillos' work has been shown in Cuban galleries throughout his career, and has also travelled to countries such as Puerto Rico, the United States. Mexico. France, Panama, Spain, England, China, Germany, Venezuela, Chile and Turkey.

At July's Expoventa event at the Department of Foreign Affairs in the context of the ambassadors' meeting, Cuban diplomats bought many of his pieces to deliver as presents in the countries where they represent Cuba.

Defending Young People

José Manuel García Rebustillos, Painter the Faces of HavanaResbustillos believes that all young people are equal. “I don't believe that some are good and others bad, I just think each one has a different point of view,” he says.

“There are young graduates and non-graduates that do wonderful things and we must allow them to participate without discrimination.”

“They always ask you for your graduate diploma or your artist identity card and if you don't have it you can't exhibit your work, no matter how relevant it might be”, he pointed out.

“That's why I think that the Havana Biennal should allow these young people to participate.” Rebustillos wants to encourage undiscovered new artists as well as recent graduates to keep on studying and learn from the great teachers of fine arts.

“I, for example, was influenced by the works of artists such as Amelia Peláez (1896-1968), Servando Cabrera (1923-1981) and Víctor Manuel (1897-1969), among others. It was inspiring to follow their example and the studies they did on faces, which amaze me.”

On his future projects, he said that although he is spending a lot of his time restoring Cuba's Chamber of Commerce, he is also involved the restoration of the sculptures if Hotel Riviera in Havana which were created by Maestro Florencio Gelabert, using his experience as restorer of the Museum of Fine Arts for over 20 years, specializing in sculpture and decorative arts.

He also works as an interior and exterior designer, having recently redesigned the facade of the International Press Center among other projects. He is also preparing Apuntes para un rostro - an exhibition to be held in the Puerto Rican capital San Juan.

He also revealed that as part of his future projects, he wants to perfect his Caras Habaneras series, which he does not consider as a complete work yet. “I see it as a sketch, a project, and I think I haven't done the last Habanera yet.”

José Manuel García Rebustillos, Painter the Faces of HavanaHe also said that it bothers some people when he donates some of his works, such as a piece he donated to a TV show La neurona intranquila, but he emphasized that he will keep on doing because it feeds his soul.

“I don't have anyone specific in mind to donate to; it can be as much a famous personality, as an ordinary man or woman.”

This pure Habanero, with a passion for his small loving family, confessed that travelling is not among his priorities. “What interests me is that the work travels and I feel satisfied that this goal has been attained,” he said.

Asked what he thought of the current arts movement in Cuba he said, “I think it's going in the right direction.”

“People are doing the most interesting things, conceptual, abstract and figurative art. I see the movement as a 15-year-old girl, full of life and happiness. But everyone needs to be given the opportunity to exhibit their work, not just a few as is happening at the moment.”