Líneas Vitales/Vital Lines: Defying a blockade through art

Six Cuban artists and six US artists collaborate across borders to uplift Cuban revolutionary internationalism

January 28, 2022 by Natalia Marques
Vital Lines/Líneas Vitales

US-based organization The Peoples Forum is launching an international collaborative exhibit: Líneas Vitales/Vital Lines, which combines the talents of six artists from the US and six Cuban artists into a series of twelve pieces. Claudia de la Cruz, Co-Executive Director of The People’s Forum, said about the purpose of the exhibit, “Through our work, we are committed to the task of unraveling and deconstructing cultural expressions that sustain and promote the reproduction of capitalist values and practices (i.e. individualism, consumerism, competition, etc.) and building up collective cultural practices that lead to liberation.”

Artists were placed into pairs, given a central theme, and encouraged to collaborate with one another in whichever way they saw fit. The pairs consisted of one US-based artist and one Cuban artist, reaching across a 60-year blockade and many obstacles laid by the imperialistic relationship of the United States towards Cuba. Each pair collaborated on a different theme: liberation, peace, friendship, sovereignty, struggle, and future. 

Art by Kimberly Villafuerte Barzola

Kimberly Villafuerte Barzola, based out of Boston, designed a bold, tricolored piece, with a quote from Argentinian-born revolutionary Che Guevara framing a woman with an outstretched hand. Regarding her work, which was based on the theme “future”, Barzola said, “In the same way that popular media may depict the apocalypse as inevitable, I’ve also seen progressives depict socialist futures as inevitable. As if it won’t require diligently educating ourselves on past movements, learning historical lessons to shape our strategy today, and standing shoulder to shoulder with the millions of people who stand to benefit from a new system that will prioritize the needs of human life and the environment over profit.”

Art by Karla M. Gómez

Kimberly collaborated with Cuban artist Karla M. Gómez, who also worked off the theme “future”. Gómez’s piece overlaps geometric shapes and arrows, invoking a future that follows many directions. Discussing the process of collaboration, Gomez said, “I had the opportunity to confront different points of view, and compliment these points of views, these ideas, that we had between us, and also a way of combining distinct styles of creation and of art that is really very enriching in terms of design, in terms of art as such.” 

Art by Arístides Torres

Cuban artist Arístides Torres and US-based artist Andrew Nance collaborated on the theme “struggle”, and both decided to highlight a particular facet of struggle: the battle of ideas. “I didn’t want to talk about the violent struggle of the confrontation between two parties,” said Torres about his piece, “so I decided to explore a bit, with respect to the struggle to maintain victories, the victories achieved by the revolutionary project in the cultural sphere.” Torres’ piece is striking, with a rose to counterbalance the symbolism of the raised fist, both emphasized in vivid white against purple.

Art by Andrew Nance

The crisp shapes of Andrew Nance’s piece convey motifs of childhood, playfulness, and imagination. Yet the missiles and roses, contrasting war and peace, subtly nod to the seriousness of the subject of “struggle”. Nance cited a quote by Claudia Jones as a source of information: “A people’s art is the genesis of their freedom.” Nance described: “Being able to share this genesis internationally is just a wonderful way to express solidarity, but also build a more genuine connection, not just culturally, but politically, with other people struggling against the same system that we are in the US.”

Click here to view the virtual exhibition.