“I never thought I would go to Cuba. I was uneducated on the country. It made me think of cigars and rum. I knew something about President John F. Kennedy, the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro, and the Bay of Pigs. I didn’t know how they all tied together. And, I’ll be honest… I’m not so clear on everything now. I don’t know how to find the truth. Who is right? Who is spewing propaganda? How do we help and improve the lives of everyday Cubans? Or, wait…is that even our job, and do they really need American help? It’s mind-boggling.
The situation in Cuba, just like my artwork, is subject to interpretation. I don’t like to explain my paintings to others. I don’t like to title them. Do you see how the paintings in this series are just named “Havana 2016” and then numerically 1 to 11? I want you to decide. I want you to explore the paintings and tell me what you see.
One of the most curious statements made by our guide was related to classic cars. She said something like, “the prevalence of the classic American cars in Havana is evidence of the Cuban ingenuity.” Wait. Is that right? Or, is it a blazing sign that the country is stuck in a time warp and suffers from a complete lack of modern sophistication and technology? I don’t know. What do you think? It is both…maybe?
In Havana 2016, you’ll see the themes of exploration, education, and the curious idea of simplicity. Many things are simple: a boy with a fish, coffee cups, a cigar box, a typewriter. But what do these things mean to you? Do they bring about joy, or do they motivate you to think about the inability to advance? As with all of my paintings, since I began creating after the death of my father in 1998, my art is healing. While I want you to think, it is not my goal to depress you. I want to inspire you.
Please enjoy Havana 2016.”
John Ross Palmer
This entire series has gone into private collections.