At a very young age, Alberto Lescay discovered that the visual arts “were his world”; however, he was torn at first by having to choose between sculpture and painting. “At this point, I haven’t decided on either, but on both,” he says with conviction.
In August he will open a solo show in Mexico City una muestra personal that was preceded by a solo show in the central Mexican city of Querétaro, where, he told OnCuba in an exclusive interview, he feels “great among so many friends who love and welcome me.”
Before that, though, he planned to exhibit at the 12th Havana Biennial, from May to June of this year, at the Morro-Cabaña national park (as part of a project called Zona franca). The main character of this solo show, Sueño de caballa, first appeared in his work 10 years ago and has acquired increasing relevance. “The caballa is an icon that embodies our reality, but at the same time it is a bit picaresque; it has a bit of humor and represents human problems related to ambiguities, vicissitudes, achievements, joys and sorrows. It all comes together in that character, and I’m going to try to express it in works that are sometimes paintings, sometimes sculptures, and sometimes graphic works, and I will incorporate the installation criterion. I think it will be something interesting.”
For an artista like Lescay—who classifies as one of Cuban contemporary art’s maestros—participating in the Biennial is “very important,” because a true artist needs to be interested in confrontation, criticism, and contact with the public. “A lot of people come to find out about and become familiar with what is happening in Cuba’s visual arts, and that is positive. Moreover, it is a privilege that we have earned, for one thing, by the level of response to Cuba’s visual arts—each in its own way—and that is something very attractive for collectors and others who are looking to Cuba.”
Lescay is considered by some to be a sort of guardian of his city, which he views as a tremendous responsibility, because Santiago is full of stories and mysteries and is the cradle of many events. “Perhaps I am a humble guardian who is trying to recognize and protect values related to the essence of being Cuban. I feel like Santiago—which is celebrating its first 500th birthday this year—is like a kind of universal temple.”
The Monumento al Cimarrón, which stands very close to the sanctuary of Cuba’s patron saint, the Virgin of La Caridad, is, perhaps, the work that marked a turning point in Lescay’s work. “I feel the spirit of that work in others, and I think I’ve found a road, because it is a very open proposal, not at all schematic or dogmatic, and those are very universal codes that are expressed in it.” He contends that being a cimarrón is an attitude toward life, and will continue to exist as long as any trace or expression of slavery exists in the world, because “being free, never being fettered, is the most humane stance there is.”
His biggest goal is to work every day. It is, precisely, his “great monument,” the only way to nourish his spirit. “Trying to make art is the most beautiful and human attitude that can exist. Independently of setting greater goals in relation to scale, the most important thing is—with small things—to make a monument to yourself every day.”
An inveterate dreamer, he imagines Santiago in the next 500 years as a modern city, with a metro that will unite it with the capital, “and a cable car that will take us to the top of Pico Turquino…. I see a Santiago de Cuba full of beautiful things, colors, bursting with good music and a mixture of artists from all over the world. Havana and Santiago will be tied together—as they always have been—amid their controversies, loans and exchanges; that is a virtue of our caiman, which kisses and caresses all its parts, because, in the end, we are Cuban.”
Alberto Lescay Merencio (Santiago de Cuba, 1950). Graduated in 1968 from the José Joaquín Tejada School of Visual Arts in Santiago de Cuba with a specialty in painting, and from Havana’s National Art School in 1973 with a specialty in sculpture. This well-known artist sponsored the creation in 1995 of the Caguayo Foundation for Monumental and Applied Arts.
He obtained the title of Art Teacher, with a specialty in monumental sculpture, at the Repin Academy of Sculpture, Architecture, Painting and Graphic Arts in St. Petersburg. His work has been exhibited in Cuba, Germany, Spain, Norway, Belgium, Holland, Greece, France, Nicaragua, Surinam, Mexico, the United States, Granada, Barbados, and elsewhere. In Cuba three works of his on display are considered National Heritage: The Plaza Antonio Maceo and the Monumento al Cimarrón [Monument to the Runaway Slave], in Santiago de Cuba, and in a centrally-located park of Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, Vuelo Lam, a sculptural complex (which pays homage to the Cuban artist best-known internationally).