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Posted on Thu, May. 20, 2004

Cuban themes escape traditional palette : A show by Cintas fellowship finalists includes installations about the sea and St. Teresa.

BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO

A white gown made of fishing hooks and netting. Small porcelain boats that seem to be sailing, one after another, on the cement floor. Color photographs of paper boats lined up against Havana's famous seawall, El Malecón.

Otra vez el mar, Once Again the Sea, is the title of Juana Valdés' installation at the Cintas Foundation exhibit, Hope and Glory: The Enduring Legacy of Oscar B. Cintas, opening tonight at Miami Art Central.

The New York-based artist is one of five Cuban Americans vying for the annual $10,000 Cintas fellowship created by Cuban arts patron Oscar B. Cintas, a prominent industrialist and former Cuban ambassador to the United States, to benefit Cuban artists in exile.

The winner will be announced at tonight's opening reception.

The exhibit at MAC also includes some masterpieces belonging to the Oscar B. Cintas Collection and on permanent loan to the Lowe Art Museum.

The work of former Cintas fellows -- like Carlos Alfonzo, Cundo Bermœdez, José Mijares and Mario Carreno -- also will be on display. And two prominent exiles -- novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante and architect Nicolas Quintana -- will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Some 285 visual artists, writers, architects and composers have received Cintas fellowships.

Besides Valdés, the finalists in the Visual Arts include Magda Fernandez, Luis Gispert, Gabriel Martinez and Eduardo de Soignie.

Their work consists of modern installation art, in contrast to the traditional school of Cuban painting of previous Cintas fellows.

In addition to the sea theme, Valdes' installation includes 25 photographs of the trajectory of mattresses through New York City.

Fernandez's work, Home Sweet Gated Home, examines the isolation and cookie-cutter identity of gated communities.

Gispert's involves a set of photos depicting exaggerated images of Cuban exile characters and settings mixed in with elements of U.S. pop culture.

Soignie explores landscapes, movement and Afro-Cuban themes.

A piece titled Orisha Nla is a narrative about santer’a deity Obatala. Another is called Kalunga, a reference to the land of the dead, according to Kongo beliefs.

Martinez's installation is made up of nine images of St. Therese that stand before a ''skating ring'' made of salt from the Dead Sea, as if the figurines were judges in a competition. The pieceis a tribute to figure skating champion Michelle Kwan.

''Michelle Kwan is someone I adore, she's an inspiration,'' says Martinez, 36. ``And my sister is named after Santa Teresita. She's sort of our family's patron saint.''

fsantiago@herald.com

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