“Cuba Adrift,” Seen Three Ways

We’re on a sunlit stretch of a city block. From the architecture it could be any city center south of the United States, or someplace in Europe. That the building in the foreground is worn down helps narrow it down. But not as much as the subjects. There’s a policeman on the corner, looking vigilant. To his left, a group of musicians, guitars, shakers, an upright.

It’s Havana, and this image, for photographer Hank Paper, encapsulates his experience of Cuba as much as any picture he took.

Make no mistake, he said — Cuba is a dictatorship, and “when you have police on every corner, you’re not going to have crime.” But then “there are these musicians who convey a whole different spirit about the place.” The repressive politics and widespread poverty; the deep and vibrant culture that fascinates the world. “These are the two forces that we’re contending with.”

Paper’s photographs and the works of painter Roberta Friedman and quilter Sue Millen are presented side by side by side in “Cuba Adrift,” the latest exhibition at City Gallery, which runs through April 29.

Each of the three artists visited Cuba — Paper first in 2000 and again in 2011, Friedman and Millen both in 2016 — and their experiences there both gave them a more nuanced understanding of geopolitics and shaped their art when they returned. When Freidman was there, she said, “I knew it was going to resonate, and it has.” 

Read the rest in the New Haven Independent