DELAND, Fla. – A new exhibition at the Museum of Art in DeLand is shedding light on cultural heritage, the environment and social justice.
The solo exhibition, called “When There Is No Frontier,” includes more than 70 masterpieces by Cuban-American artist Reynier Llanes, who with a stroke of a brush reflects on the past and present.
“I needed to use metaphors to hide the message that I was trying to portray back in Cuba,” Llanes said from his Miami home.
Born in the small town of Pinar del Rio, Cuba where Llanes mastered his craft, he used hidden messages in his paintings to express his social and political views.
Llanes said that in Cuba, freedom of speech is prohibited by the communist government. He was concerned about his future, so in 2007, Llanes fled to South Florida on a makeshift boat where he now lives.
“(I was) trying to escape the island for six months so in that period of time I created a series of new paintings which I called it ‘Strange Visitor,’” the 36-year-old artist told News 6.
He explained he used that phrase to portray himself as a fly.
“When a fly comes into your home, you have a strange visitor. I called myself strange visitor coming to United States. I was that fly,” Llanes said.
Pam Coffman, curator of education at the Museum of Art in DeLand, explained how each piece tells a different story from a different time using animals, like cows and pigs, fruits and a coffee machine used to make Cuban coffee.
“Cow meat and milk were not allowed after the children were a certain age for the main people in Cuba so that goes back to his memories,” Coffman said. “There’s a lot of metaphors and symbols in his work. You’ll see microphones, you’ll see typewriters, you’ll see different kinds of ways that we’ve communicated technologically through time.”
The young painter comes from a family of doctors and is using his craft to give tragedy a brighter outlook, like he did with a painting portraying George Floyd.
“I did this painting not the way of portraying sadness or brutality but trying to portray it in a beautiful way,” he said.
In the painting, Floyd is dressed in white and is floating.
“Dressed in white, not pinned down, floating in the air pointing forward with this look on his face of almost an anticipation and hopefulness that there’s something better, and out of all of that tragedy, things are gonna change,” Coffman said of her interpretation of the piece.
Llanes uses watercolor, coffee and mixed media, which is a combination of different materials, to depict his thoughts.
One of his paintings is named after a piece from Cuban poet José Martí about last year’s historic protests on the island.
It’s called “I Cultivate The White Rose,” or “Cultivo una rosa blanca.”
“I do love my country. I do love the landscape of my country, I do love my people, the flavor of my food,” Llanes said. “It’s a pity because I don’t think no one wants to leave their country.”
He considers himself a journalist, too, who tells stories.
“It’s just so incredibly mystical and magical,” Coffman said. “I think the beauty of this exhibition and the magic of his work is everyone is going to go away with a story and they’re going to be touched in some way about it.”
The exhibit will be on display through August 28th at the Museum of Art in Deland.
General admission tickets are $5 and kids 12 or younger are free.
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