It's impossible to talk about the eastern Cuban city of Camagüey without mentioning the talented sculptor Martha Jiménez, because her work is an intrinsic part of the surroundings of the Plaza del Carmen in the downtown historic district, an obligatory stop when visiting these parts.
In the plaza stands the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, a beautiful church with two bell towers and seven ceramic sculptures depicting local residents.
It is one of Martha's most cherished projects, part of her work recreating the human figure in different forms with her hands. “I get very inspired when I see people gathered in the street, waiting to do their shopping. It allows me to observe them. That's where I got the idea for this project, creating characters with their own psychology and characteristics,” she said in an interview with Cubaplus.
With her slow, deliberate speech, Martha emanates that special quality known as “Cuban-ness” from every pore; her comments about her work reflect her love for her country and for what she does. “My work has received recognition in many nations because it truly reflects our Cuban identity, especially when you consider that local customs are an aspect of every single one of my pieces,” she said.
“What inspires me is the human figure, above all, but also volumes and sharp contrasts between light and shadow.” Her work spans various visual arts, especially ceramics and clay, and “I really enjoy painting and making engravings and sculptures, all at the same time. I like to alternate what I'm doing; it makes my work more pleasant, and it comforts and stimulates me,” she said.
“I started out in this life (the visual arts) from a very early age. Art was born with me, and as a child, I always loved being creative, and therefore I devoted a lot of my time to painting.”
Her first connection with sculpture came while she was studying at the School of Art Instructors, from which she graduated with the specialty of Visual Arts. “It was there that I first touched clay and potter's clay and began modeling, and I've never stopped since,” she said.
Martha has devoted herself to the visual arts fulltime since the early 1980s, at first with small-format sculptures in ceramics. Subsequently, she has worked with many techniques and materials: terracotta, bronze, marble, marbline, ceramics and wood.
She has held many solo and collective exhibitions in Cuba, in cities including Camagüey, Cienfuegos and Havana, and abroad, in the Dominican Republic, United States, Canada, Turkey, France and Chile. Her art has won a number of major awards, including the 1997 UNESCO Regional Prize at FIART, Cuba's International Arts and Crafts Fair, and honors at the Amelia Peláez Biennial, the 2nd International Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary Teapot Art in Shanghai, and the 2011 Terracotta Biennial in Turkey.
Presently, Martha is immersed in a project that has special personal significance because it is a tribute to her mother. She is working on a sculpture of a sewing machine with very sui generis characteristics and symbolism, a real reflection of the human psyche.
“I find sculpture to be very gratifying, because it is three-dimensional. It allows me to express my ideas the way I like on all sides. It is difficult, but I love it, even though I'm never totally convinced about what I've done.”