By Helson Hernandez
HAVANA TIMES, March 23 — HT interviewed Leo D´lazaro, a visual artist and the creator of a very special place in Old Havana: “The Eye of the Hurricane” studio/gallery, which is visited by many passersby who cannot escape the surprise of discovering its originality.
HT: We find remarkable diversity in your work, everything from installations to painting. Within that great creative variety, how do you define yourself as an artist?
Leo D’lazaro: Really, I increasingly define myself as an archaeologist…as an excavator. It’s a concept that guides me in everything, in my way of living, which is the same thing as my creation. I live and I believe as an integral whole in relation to my being in my space and with all the people who surround me. This is based on the concept that I call “archaeology of the present,” which consists of aging to the point of fossilizing everything that is very new…that is very current, to create a deeper vision of what surrounds us.
Starting from there what opens up to me is a wide creative range since I have one sole concept, which is my concept of life, because it’s my natural way of encountering all the experiences that allow me to work with diverse techniques, disciplines, formats and themes. It’s like a solid base from which I develop a style that is easily identified but that is not limited by one single form or theme. I feel with a language, a very clear and concrete personal language, but at the same time I expand it to express all the ideas that come to my mind.
HT: How long have you been in the world of visual arts?
LDL: I’ve been in this for more than 30 years, during which time I’ve gone through different periods of development, assimilations of influences and encounters with language.
HT: Could you recall some highlights for us — be they events or exhibitions — that have left an important mark on your trajectory.
LDL: Sure. As an example, I’ve participated in national and international events that have been important for me – ones such as the Biennial of Havana. In the ninth Biennial I set up a huge work at the La Couvre train terminal, where based on my concept of the archaeology I could efficiently express the theme of that year’s event – which was urbanism.
Also, in the 10th Biennial I carried out something different from the point of view of discipline. It involved space, performance and installation art. Here I took advantage of a truly archaeological site in Old Havana to exhume present-day objects, like computer keyboards, cell phones and other objects, inviting the spectators to participate in this discovery.
I also remember an event focusing on stone sculpture in which I participated in 2006 in Argentina with a group of sculptors from different parts of the world. I’ve also participated here in various collective initiatives in the historic district of Havana, like one with goldsmiths, where one of the works remains on display at the Goldsmith Museum. I also have several works placed throughout the city; ones such as “Sancho Panza,” located on busy Obispo Street, which was awarded in a sculpture competition on July 26, 1993. Like this, I’ve participated in all types of collective events presenting murals and performances.
HT: What is “The Eye of the Hurricane”?
LDL: “The Eye of the Hurricane” is the space I created where at the moment I carry out my work, but in a very particular way, according to what people who fortunately come here daily constantly tell me. It’s characterized by my form of creating, since I do it throughout the entire day and at night with the big doors open and where everyone can enter to observe and participate in my creations in different ways. When there’s more motion, more people and more sounds around me, I can concentrate more on my work and I feel enriched. Based on that I have been generating a series of activities that have been making up “The Eye of the Hurricane,” where many people come because they find peace and harmony here.
It’s a place where each person openly brings whatever they have, and from that are developed different types of intellectual, artistic, physical and many other activities. It’s like a creative wave from which no one wants to escape and where each person feels good about themself and is the leading character of what they know, spontaneously exchanging their experiences. It’s kind of society of creators where many things are generated spontaneously – things like courses, conferences and creative parties. In short, it’s a spiritual and intellectual space, exactly like an eye of a hurricane, where the pressure is zero and time stops.
HT: And the idea of conceiving such an original and uncommon place… how did it emerge and under what circumstances?
LDL: It came from my desire to connect with the present, with day-to-dayness, by delving into society. What emerged was this open way of sharing the creative process with everyone and everyone sharing with me. “The Eye of the Hurricane” is the door for making this diagnosis of the present where I give space to everyone. Going further behind it, the idea for the name came to me in 1997 when I was creating a work titled “The mysterious nest of the hurricane.” based on the poem by the Cuban writer Dulce Maria Loynas. I’ve also always very much liked diversity, which is life and light to me.
HT: So can we invite everyone who wants to discover this magic place? Tell us how to get there?
LDL: Sure, of course. Everyone is invited. We’re in Old Havana at 501 O’Reilly Street, at the corner of Villegas, with the place almost always open.
HT: I understand that “The Eye of the Hurricane” also presents musical performances and artistic encounters.
LDL: Yeah, like I said, we do all types of things but we try for them not to be very planned out. They’re not exactly musical presentations, but moments where people come to freely show and demonstrate their talent.
We sometimes do milongas of tangos and we give classes to combine many interests and disciplines, and out of those very interesting projects come into being. For example, in a short time I’m going to organize a runway where I’ll act, paint, dance and design clothes.
HT: Are you presently involved in some exhibition or in another work that’s keeping you busy and will be presented soon?
LDL: Apart from what I’ve just told you, I have many projects, like individual and collective exhibitions, or presentations of public spaces. In the park where my sculpture of Sancho Panza is located, I recently carried out another environmental work with the name of “Dulcinea,’ since I am trying to fill the space with the theme of Don Quixote, but brought to Cuba. In fact Dulcinea is a young Cuban woman of today. I’m attempting to make this place an extension of “The Eye of the Hurricane,” where intellectuals and artist come together. I’ve already begun with Dulcinea, including in this a chair with a poem by poet Rogelio Sebastian, where he sits down to write daily.
HT: Such a restless creator as yourself, I’m sure that you have interesting opinions about the current evolution of Cuban visual Arts.
LDL: I’ve always said that I’m very happy to be an artist at this time and in the current Cuban context of the visual arts. It is a privileged moment where there’s lots of movement, much competition and a great deal life. Right now the visual arts are increasingly something very important in Cuba. There is a great movement of contemporary artists who are members of the current vanguard. There are controversies, contradictions, talent, superficiality, critiques and real knowledge. I believe that all of that forms a rich and intense context of which I am proud to belong. I don’t complain at all and I feel greatly stimulated and encouraged to say all types of things with my art.