Syracuse University 2016
Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
College of Arts and Sciences
Citizenship and Civic Engagement
Born in Pinar del Río, Cuba (1974), the second son of a Baptist minister, Abisay Puentes, studied in the Escuela Nacional de las Artes (National School of Arts), in Havana. The school prohibited the talk of faith, bringing a Bible to school, and anything that related to religion. Abisay was expelled for wearing a t-shirt that had the quote, “Smile, Jesus loves you.” Crying by the sidewalk in front of the school, he promised himself he would never again attend a communist school.
He continued to educate himself, until a professor of history and art philosophy, Juan Enríque Guerrero, became his mentor and taught him how to work pictorially, musically and poetically. This is how the artist started to focus on the theory and musical composition that is part of his visual exploration today.
The summer of 2010, he came to the United States as a political refugee. He currently lives in Syracuse, NY with his wife and their three children.
Andrea: Well Abisay, this art exhibition entails a metaphor relating to the loss of innocence, yes? But is there a narrative goal, an element of theatrical construction, or narrative. Could you please talk a little about this construction?
Abisay: Yes, I had started in 2001 with a series of paintings titled Rito Gular. This series is followed by others like Liturgia and Imenitente, a succession of series that follow, and relate to the way in which Adam and Eve, in my story, start building, how should you say, an empire based on their ego. They begin to make this all grow. And the empire becomes vast… but I am referring here to an internal state of being. Sometimes we have empires inside of us. And our ego is so inflated, and disproportionate, that what we have inside is a monster. That is where I am focused.
My work does not really talk about the loss of innocence, which is what the Bible talks about. I am not illustrating the Bible. I am working off of this two people, Adam and Eve, to create a story where I will develop an idea, and where I will transmit my thoughts concerning spirituality in our time. Based on this is that I start to build up my work. When I start doing my thing, it does not matter if I work on something for a year, and then I don’t pick up that idea until five years later. I follow a logical order, at least in my head, and in my notes, and I know where I’m going. Generally it all relates to the human being who has his or her stages. The first series that I presented in Syracuse was titled Lamentaciones de Abisay, and from there to Imposibilitados, which really came to be the prologue or the introduction Lamentaciones. This means that if we are going to talk about the order of the construction of the narrative, my imposibilitado (unable) found Adam in the middle of his sorrow and the unable asked him “Why does man suffer so much? Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why does pain exist?” And Adam’s response is this work, which is obviously still not finished. This is but a sketch, three advances of what I want to do. At the end, what I hope to see is one big mural.
Andrea: So then, what are you trying to communicate with your work?
Abisay: I propose that the human being realizes that the way we are living, is far from ideal. The principal thesis of my work is that the human being, without any conception of God, without an idea that forces him or her to have some coherence with his or her primary reason for being, is going to be unhappy with his or her life. If we continue to believe in that irrational, that I just don’t understand and can’t find another word to describe but humanism, that expects from us much more than we are, that is living an idealism that in the long run will lead us to become unhappy with ourselves. I think the solution to the problem of the human being has become unattainable. And I think it is time for us to finally understand that after so many punches life has hit us with, after the immense pain humanity has suffered, that idea that man tries to liberate himself from, to escape from, has caught up with us. And it has made us suffer. What is this idea? It is the freedom that we have in God. I do not see my art as religious, but deep down that is what I am talking about. Our wickedness reaches all of us in the end. And maybe this sounds somewhat apocalyptical. But really, look, there are people who can live in this world and see the things that are happening, and some are more affected than others. One thing is what is wrong, is that people are indolent, that they don’t care, that even their generous acts, the supposed acts of benevolence, deep down are only done for their gain. I am not referring to the rich only. Even, many poor, when they receive help, they will ask for more, and they will want to live in poverty to keep receiving aid without earning it. I don’t see it as a political problem, or a religious one, it is the human problem. If you are rich, you will want to do things so that everyone realizes how good you are. And if you are poor, you want to exhibit your poverty to receive, and to keep living in your poverty and receiving. Such is the human condition.