From a very young age, Laura Portilla knew that she would have a career in photography and, while in pursuit of this dream, she arrived at Havana's Institute of Design. Here, she was able to explore her craft and receive the necessary tools which enabled her to skilfully capture and frame the world around her, elegantly interpreting the culture and landscape with the use of a camera lens.
In conversation with Cubaplus, this restless artist recalls that after graduating from Graphic Design, there were very few career opportunities in Cuba for photographers. She was forced to choose an alternative to participate in these workshops in order to consolidate and expand her knowledge as there were no programs devoted entirely to photography. Still, Portilla is thankful for these workshops and has no regrets.
Portilla likes to collaborate and take part in projects with fellow artists, almost always as a photographer, but sometimes as a designer for catalogues, albums, presentations and more. In that sense, at present she has contributed to the project called Artistically Roaming from One End of the Island to the Other.
Along with sixteen other artists, the group has just completed a tour of Cuba that led them, in stages, to the provinces of Guantánamo, Santiago de Cuba, Holguín, Las Tunas and Granma; then to Camagüey, Ciego de Ávila, Villa Clara and Cienfuegos, Matanzas and Mayabeque, Pinar del Río and, finally, Havana.
The aim was to bring the culture of all regions together to share them with the rest of the country, including villages in remote areas and prisons for men and women. The tour also included lectures, exchanges with students from the respective provincial Art Academies, and exhibitions of renowned artists such as Eduardo Abela, Alexis Leyva (Kcho), Ernesto Rancaño and Laura herself, among other tour group members whose work includes a broad range of styles, mediums and artistic expression.
According to Portilla, also participating in this tour was a film director, a sound engineer and two cameramen who plan to make a documentary about the work of Artistically Roaming.
For Laura, her proudest accomplishments to date in her short career include two solo exhibitions. The first was in 2007 and was titled 3,000 Silences. It was a work about the facilities of Presidio Modelo, an old prison located on the Isle of Youth where a group of revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro were imprisoned for their participation in the assault on the Moncada Barracks in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba prior to the triumph of the revolution.
The second is entitled Once Upon a Fortune, exhibited in 2011 after a trip by the photographer to China, during which she was able to capture the beauty, mystery and diversity of the great Asian country. The final works were framed in manufactured paper on which she interwove pierced coins from that nation.
Currently she is working on her third solo exhibition, still in preparation, which consists of self-portraits with titles that are as suggestive as the images: You are the Wind, She Lives in Me, and No One Escapes Their Destiny.
This year, Laura announced a collateral exhibition which will be displayed during the Havana Visual Arts Biennial, to be held in May. At this exhibition, located in Chinatown's La Casona and sponsored by the Cuba-China Friendship Association, Once Upon a Fortune will be on exhibit for the second time. She is also anticipating two presentations of her works in Madrid, Spain and possibly one in the Photography Fair in Germany.
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