Monday, June 11, 2007

From Cuba, with love

Maine Today

UNE gallery director shares from her own collection.

June 10, 2007


Staff Writer

Anne Zill has a personal interest in Cuba. A son-in-law is Cuban, and Zill has felt passionate about the island since she first visited in 1984.

She has returned many times since and amassed an impressive collection of Cuban art, much of which she purchased on the street for very little money, relative to what she would have spent for comparable art in the United States.

This summer, she shares some of her collection in "Cuba: Hearts and Minds, Past and Present" at the Art Gallery at the University of New England.

Zill directs the gallery, and this exhibition is among the most personal she's ever assembled.

It probes the island's history and cultural psyche through contemporary and historical art by Cuban artists, as well as pieces by North American artists who have spent time there. The show also traces Maine's historic connections to Cuba.

A centerpiece of the exhibition is a nine-foot ceramic tile "The History of the Bay of Pigs," by Joan Gardner of Virginia. In the tile-by-tile sequence, she traces the events of the Bay of Pigs through her art, setting the political and social context of the exhibition.

There's also a black-and-white photograph of Ernest Hemingway and Fidel Castro, taken in 1960, a year before Hemingway died.

The two men are standing side-by-side at a fishing tournament. Hemingway appears to be talking somewhat intently, while Castro gives him his attention. The photo is on loan to Zill by a friend in Brunswick.

With the help of other friends who have traveled to Cuba and the Center for Cuban Studies in New York, Zill has assembled a broad range of work, including paintings, photographs and sculpture to tell the Cuban story.

Other materials in the exhibition include painted denim jeans and metal pails, representative of the kind of street art common on the island.

The exhibition is colorful, spiritual, sensual and provocative.

Wifredo Lam, one of Cuba's better-known artists, has two pieces in the show. He was a contemporary of Pablo Picasso, and worked primarily a painter. Lam died in 1982.

A contemporary artist, Sandra Ramos, also has two pieces in the show. Her work is full of irony and sarcasm. In one piece, she depicts herself in bed with Uncle Sam, snatching an American dollar bill from him. In the background, a figure symbolic of the common Cuban man looks on.

Another tangent present in the exhibition is the connection between Cuba and Maine. Because of Maine's seafaring tradition, there's been trading going on between Maine and Cuba for hundreds of years.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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