Saturday, February 11, 2017

Osbel Susman-Peña, Cuban Artist

Between Religiosity and Erotism

English version

The Artist/Journalist

Member and blogger of  TLAL

Osbel Susman-Peña

This Cuban artist paints deities, flowers and plants of his island, as if they were genital organs.  Or perhaps in fact, does he paint genitals disguised as colorful flowers, palms, and Cuban deities? Oshun, Shango and Yemaya are deities from Africa that gave rise to Santeria in Cuba, and to other religions in the world.  Oshun is the god of the rivers, Shango the god of thunder, and Yemaya is the goddess of the ocean. They are also three of  Susman-Peña's paintings. His style has permeated them with an erotic and island air. Adding to the theme is his use of brilliant color in an explosion of vibrant, springy, tropical tones. "I work from elements like religion and poetry," says the artist. Susman-Peña has no religion; he comes from a family of freethinkers, yet his work interestingly has much to do with deities and beliefs.

In Cuba people dance salsa and in their mouths always have an expression of gratitude to God, a saint, or a deity who is often of African origin. In the midst of all this grew Susman-Peña. He arrived in the United States 13 years ago, in 2004.  He was an artist before he came. He graduated from the San Alejandro National Academy of Fine Arts in Havana, and then became a professor of design and illustration for several years at the Superior Institute of Industrial Design (ISDI), also in in Havana. 

He had already seen how on his island, women wear small clothes all the time, and men can walk shirtless in the streets without censorship. From that close contact with the natural state of the human body came to Susman-Peña the erotic touch he expresses in his works. He was still an art student when a teacher, after analyzing one of his works, told him that this was an element that should continue to explode. From there everything started.  Susman-Peña had been looking for an identity as an artist, and he had found it. By the contents of his works, one gets the impression that the artist has no set ties (other than to the tropical nature of his homeland) or prejudices. One of the images in the following video is a work called "La Aldea" (the Village), that represents an island, in which the trunks of the palm trees have the form of penises. In this painting you can feel the movement of the waves and the wind.

With intense colors, he expresses his freedom of being able to create. What he calls the explosion of colors came to him, paradoxically, during a gray and snowy day in his home in Maryland.  It was that day when he realized that the colors of the Caribbean had come with him in his memory and that he had to let them out.  Susman-Peña painted with crayons before he was two years old, painted on paper, on the walls, in his cradle, on the floor, his mother says. And his uncle exhibited his works " if they were those of a great artist," says he gratefully.  Susman-Peña has three children, works as an art teacher in a bilingual school, travels to Cuba frequently to visit the family, and is a member of our Latin Art League of Greater Washington DC.

It was a great pleasure to interview you, thanks Osbel!
To know more about Osbel, please visit his web page.

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