A statue of the Haitian independence hero Toussaint L'Ouverture stands tall at the beginning of Avenida de Las Americas, a main thoroughfare in the eastern Cuban city of Santiago de Cuba, and halfway up that avenue, an equestrian statue of Cuban independence hero Antonio Maceo rises up, unshaken, following the disaster caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Both were made by local sculptor Alberto Lescay, who was interviewed by CubaPlus on Oct. 24, just hours before the hurricane hit. Lescay has been busy preparing for the René Valdés Cedeño National Symposium on Environmental Sculpture, set to be held in November, amid many other projects that keep him constantly and creatively busy.
Recently, he returned from a long tour that took him from Japan to Mexico, where he was able to learn about new and interesting aspects of art, from paintings of renowned pianos in Japan to pictrial paintings made of bulls' blood in Mexico.
The keyboards of Chucho Valdés
Lescay, president of the Caguayo Foundation says he is deeply satisfied at being chosen to leave his imprint on the first five jazz pianos that will bear the name of the well-known Cuban musician Chucho Valdés based on an idea of Sakai Sam of Japan, who makes and tunes them.
Lescay says that he worked for two weeks in Okinawa on these pianos and during that time he met artists from Japan who play Cuban music and maintain cooperation in solidarity with artistic education on the island.
Two of the five pianos that he painted have red backgrounds and feature a contrast of lights with warm colors, black and red, while the rest are decorated with more of an influence from jazz and Chucho's work: landscapes, the nuances of Okinawa, the sea, nature, the Earth and a visual fiesta of diverse tones, he said.
Lescay spoke enthusiastically about the possibility of the donation of a piano from Japan to the Iris Jazz Club, a project in Santiago de Cuba that has almost been completed, and which reflects the sculptor's passion for music and for his homeland.
Canvases, bulls and brushstrokes
From Japan, Lescay traveled to the Mexican city of Querétaro, where he experienced the unusual creative adventure of painting with bull's blood. There, he left a mural and other work reflecting that culture of cloaks, bulls and bullfighters.
Among the individuals and families that he met from Juriquilla, in the northern part of that city, he made his debut in using these materials, which he expects will endure for many years, leaving a collection of his paintings among bullfighters and aficionados. Some of them reflect small, individuals stories of man's contact with those animals, as part of that longtime local tradition.
Music in his veins
A deep-rooted inclination for music is revealed by the trajectory of Lescay, who is considered to be the greatest environmental sculptor of the Caribbean. His work depicts performers such as Francisco Repilado (Compay Segundo), who was his friend; Chano Pozo (1915-1948), the renowned Cuban percussionist who lived in New York; an anonymous tres player in Santiago; and Ignacio Villa—the famous Bola de Nieve (1911-1971), the one-of-a-kind pianist, singer and composer.
This is due, in part, to a number of his children and friends who are musicians, to his birth in one of the most musical lands in the world, and to his family, where it was natural to sing, dance, play and even create the tres, a Cuban instrument with three sets of doubled strings.
A group of about 20 Cuban and German visual artists work with Lescay on a project to create the Iris Jazz Club as a place in Santiago for performers and aficionados of that genre, which first entered Cuba through this city, according to scholars. Lescay highlighted the contribution of those artists in decorating the club, which is located in the emblematic Plaza de Marte, including its furnishings and interior and exterior design. Bronze relief sculptures adorn the sidewalk outside and the entrance to its main hall.
After Hurricane Sandy is nothing but a bad memory in Santiago, these monumental pieces will remain, created by this prodigious son; the new locale for the proverbial jam sessions will open its doors, and new paths will open up for his love for his fellow man and for art.