My name is Norman Barney, from Ontario, Canada. I just returned home from a short fifteen day stay at the Unpack Studio Artist Residency in Havana, Cuba.
I have had two residencies at the Banff Centre last fall (2016) as well as the spring residency in 2015. Having gone to Cuba now and then for the past 23 years, I had no illusions at the state of the country and the difficulty in acquiring art materials, so I packed some art supplies such as watercolor paper, some acrylic paints and brushes, glue, wire and pliers. I figured that I would scrounge around the streets and flea-markets for found objects to use. This idea proved to be quite successful.
Primarily I wanted to meet artists and curators in Havana, in the hope of collaborating with them and getting a show there. I have been working with found objects for many years and since the Cuban artists cannot easily get regular art supplies they use about anything they can find for their art projects, so my style was definitely something they could relate to.
The residency did introduce me to very important people while I was there. I met Ossain Raggi, Vice Dean of the University of Arts (ISA), Dannys Montes de Oca, Director of the Wifredo Lam Center for Contemporary Arts and Jorge Fernández, Director and Curator for the National Museum of Fine Arts.
I was also introduced to two impressive artists named Francisco Puen Ávila, commonly known as “Chino”, and Henry Eric Hernández. I am going to be having a show with Henry here in Canada and we also hope to show in Havana together. My housemate at the residency is from the country of Trinidad. His name is Kern and we became very good friends.
I have finished two of the three artworks which I was working on at the residency. Here are a few more photos of my work, including details.
Ossain Raggi invited me to talk to his class at the wonderful art university known as ISA, which was once a golf course for the rich and famous before the revolution succeeded. He said that it would be an “honour” if I did but the University of Arts underwent a change of administration which made it impossible for me to meet the students in my two week residency. So I brought my catalog, a CD with new work and my written introduction for the talk, all of which I gave to Ossain to relay my artistic message to them. I found this very strange, but that is Cuba.
I could go on and on about this residency, but I won’t. I am extremely happy that I did it and I intend to reapply. I have made great friends there and also love much of the artwork that I experienced, as Cuban artists use found objects much more that those who have access to a large variety of art supplies. I continue to stay in touch with my roommate, Kern and the artist Henry. I am sure that we will see each other again soon and I’m now working on getting a great venue for a show with Henry Eric Hernández near Toronto. I hope that we are also able to show in Havana within the next two years. Here are a few more photos of my time there.