Wednesday December 13, 2017

Belkis Ayon: Rare Footage in the Studio

Late Artist Among Those Featured in Current "Queloides"/"Keloids" Exhibition

As a follow-up to our recent article on the exhibition Queloides: Raza y Racismo en el arte cubano contemporáneo (Keloids: Race and Racism in Contemporary Cuban art), currently at the Wifredo Lam Center in Havana, Cuban Art News here presents video footage of the late Belkis Ayon, one of the artists featured in the show. “Siempre Vuelvo” (I always return) documents Ayon in the studio at ISA (Instituto Superior de Artes) in Havana. Despite its poor image quality and distracting background noise, the video is fascinating, if only to see Ayon—the source of so many mysterious and beautiful images—moving so matter-of-factly through the printmaking process, in which there are few moments of mystery and a lot of hard work.

Running five minutes or so, the video primarily documents Ayon’s technique. But there’s a brief interview near the beginning, surprisingly conducted in English (with Spanish subtitles). Asked when she first learned printmaking, Ayon responds that she started “in the second year of my career,” in the university, adding that she first learned the technique in high school. When it comes time to run the prepared materials through the press, Ayon cranks the wheel herself—a real workout—then slowly peels the papers apart as the new work is revealed. At the end, having carefully laid it out on a nearby table, she gives a small, joyous laugh—a delight to hear, even on that noise-filled soundtrack.

Thanks to Tuyomasyo, the Spanish-based YouTube channel dedicated to Cuban art and culture, for sharing “Siempre Vuelvo” with Cuban Art News.