Larger Than Life
By Heidy González Cabrera / Photos by Tito Meriño
Not only tourists sit beside John Lennon on a park bench in Havana's Vedado section to enjoy the sun (and often the moon) in this Caribbean country. Lennon continues popular here and the people of Havana are grateful to the sculptor who created this life-size statue that has become a rather must-see tourist attraction.
Artist José Villa Soberón did not begin with life-sized works of art, but increased the size of his pieces over time. The reaction to the Lennon statue is similar to that to Old Havana's Caballero de Paris (Gentleman from Paris - a well known street person in Havana in the 1950-60's), when passers-by look around to be certain no one saw them say “hi” to it or stroke “his” hand for good luck.
Among the other life-sized and lifelike statues created by this artist is that of Benny Moré in Cienfuegos. Benny, considered by many the greatest Cuban singer of all times, now stands perpetually on the main street of his hometown.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta, also by Soberón, sits meditating on a bench at the San Francisco de Asís Convent in Havana, while nearby in Cathedral Square, the bronze figure of Spanish flamenco dancer and choreographer Antonio Gades leans resting against a column taking a rest.
José Villa Soberón has created his hallmark, and keeps us waiting for his next brilliant proposal that artfully recreates the anatomical and psychological features of each character in metal and gives them a new life and movement beyond death.
For these reasons and more, Soberón was awarded the Cuban 2008 National Fine Arts Award.