An Intimate Collage

“When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.”  – Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind.

By Fabiana del Valle

HAVANA TIMES – When we are children, we’re faced with the question: what do you want to be when you grow up? When you don’t have a clear vocation, combinations arise: artist and engineer, football player and doctor, banker and police officer.

That all changes with time. Your surroundings, experiences and interactions with other people make you set your own priorities. That’s how a 6-year-old-child wanted to be a carpenter like his grandfather, and then ends up in a university studying Art History at 18.

Some children, from a young age, know very clearly what they want to be as adults, and they go for it no matter what. That’s been my case.

I grew up in rural Cuba, my father was a vet, my mother a housewife, without friends or acquaintances to influence my love for art. It just came to me, as if colors and lines formed a part of my DNA.

My childhood played out in the ‘90s, in the middle of the “Special Period” crisis, and it was hard to develop this vocation at that time. I remember my mom bought a box of colored pencils. To make the absolute most of them, she put pen caps on them until the wood was used up. Then, my father thought up a mechanical pencil, and I was able to exploit the material until the very end.

Sheets of paper? I’d use anything, from a paper cone, to old notebooks or a pack of napkins a neighbor gave to me. I made my first important works on those napkins, with three pencils: green, red and blue.

The moment came for me to choose a profession, but without teachers to train with, with zero resources or access to studios, the dream slowly faded. I began to think about other degrees, History of Art, Graphic Design, Architecture.

Luckily, I met a sculptor. He recommended I go take the entry exam for the Art Academy in my province. That’s when I started a race against the clock. Sleepless nights, tears and a strong urge to give in at times.

But all of that hard work paid off when I was accepted. During those three years of study, I consolidated my technique and created future goals. I didn’t think things would be totally different once I left. I no longer had the school’s materials, or spaces or opportunities it offered me.

It’s very hard to make a living off your love for art when you’re a woman and single mother. So, I began to prostitute myself, it sounds harsh but it’s true. I put away what I wanted to work on so I could paint landscapes of Viñales, old tobacco farmers, the things that attract tourists, the only buyers around.

I got materials I needed with the help of friends and family, and I began to create again. I refuse to lose this part of me, an inseparable companion until the day I die.

It took me two years to make 16 pieces. They are now on exhibit under the name EmPoderArte. Collage intimo, at the Arturo Rigueiro Gallery, one of the most prestigious venues in Pinar del Rio province.

I won’t stop there, this is just the beginning. Not even prices going up, or the exasperating economic crisis we’re living right now will derail me. Yep, I’m going to paint from my love for the art, even if it’s difficult. I’ve found my path again, and nothing or nobody will ever take me off it.

Read more from Fabiana del Valle’s diary here.

Fabiana del Valle

I was a girl who dreamed of colors and letters capable of achieving the most widely read novels or those poems that conquer rebellious hearts. Today around forty, with my firm feet on this island, I let the brush and the words echo my voice. The one that I carry tight, prisoner of circumstances and my fears.