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INTERVIEW: Alberto Lescay, Cuba's ''bronze owner''

INTERVIEW: Alberto Lescay, Cuba's ''bronze owner''

Posted by Leyden Figueredo on April 04, 2014

Historically, sculptures have been made in bronze, whether it is by the moulding technique in sand or by the technique of lost wax. This metal is poured at around 1300 degrees Celsius; therefore the necessary infrastructure to mould it isn't easily accessible.

Getting imperishable figures out from bronze, figures that defy time and seem to have a life of their own, is not a problem for Alberto Lescay; a universal sculptor that because of his work has toured around the globe for the values he promotes.

Few have mastered physical space at his whim like he does. His creations move with impressive ease, in both, natural and urban environments, to create spaces that combine scenarios with huge metallic figures.

Lescay always reflects in his works a strong foundation of national culture with a strong mystical and spiritual halo, and a personal touch.

Among his sculpture works we can find the Monument to the Warrior Spirit, in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela; and the Monument to Neg Mawo, on the top of an original design of Martinican artist René Corail in Le Lamentin, Martinica.

But it is in his homeland where Alberto Lescay is appreciated the most; because, although he has made 35 personal exhibitions and has participated in several collective expositions in Cuba and other countries, Lescay has given his home-town remarkable symbols of Cuban culture.

In his office in the neighbourhood of Vista Alegre, in Santiago de Cuba, Alberto Lescay is accompanied by two photographs. In the first one, the equestrian figure of Antonio Maceo is shown, work of great dimensions, located in the Plaza de la Revolución, that takes its name from the Cuban hero. In the other one, there's the Monument to the Untamed, that can be found in the world famous town of El Cobre.

Of all your works, are those two your favourite ones?

Yes, they are possibly my favourite works. Imagine! The sculpture of Antonio Maceo is a city's icon and I think that it's even one of Cuba's icons. Maceo is one of the most courageous men in national History, he's also from Santiago and I see him as a personal guide. I have tried to imitate his teachings and example in my professional and personal life.

The 'Untamed' idea, on the other hand, came up when I was talking to a brother of mine, the intellectual Joel James Figarola, founder of the prestigious 'Casa del Caribe' that every year organizes the 'Fiesta del Fuego' (Party of Fire).

I had already imagined the 'Untamed' piece twelve or fifteen year before its foundation and location,  I like the concept that surrounds this figure, that belongs to Cuban culture and to History itself.

I also love what happens every day around it, particularly with the most important cultural event of the region, the Festival del Caribe, when a tribute is paid to the Untamed. I love the place where it is located as well, the natural environment of El Cobre, on the top of a hill full of the energy of antislavery battles, and the many special ways in which people communicate with this sculpture. People go there to place their offerings, to christen a child or to make wedding or birthday pictures.

Both figures are very strong to me, they are of great significance.

There's yet another reason why these pictures are with me, in my office, and it's that both of them were taken by my sister, Gladys Lescay, who sadly passed away when she was still very young. Being with this picture is therefore being around her, a tribute to her memory.

Why did you choose monumental sculpturing as your main way of artistic expression?

It allows me to move in public, open places. The commitment of a work is even bigger this way, it is located in a collective place and it will affect a lot of people. This is what's called 'pedestrian sculpture', it doesn't have boundaries. That's why I do it with utmost vigour, so it works in the aesthetic and the social field.

Santiago de Cuba is near its 500 years of foundation. Are you thinking about giving more icons to the old Spanish village?

I think that I have to give a chance to other artists because many of my works are already part of the city, and sometimes I just feel embarrassed. So I don't know. I have health, ideas, wishes, but the city is full of Lescay's works... Although not personally, the Caguayo Foundation that I direct contributes with the embellishment of the city, through the editions of the Symposium of Environmental Scuptures René Valdés Cedeño where artists from all the country support the improvement of the image of Santiago de Cuba.

With almost 20 years, how has the Caguayo Foundation contributed with the Monumental and Applied Arts in the sustainability of that artistic aspect in Cuba and other nations?

The Foundation was created in 1995 and since then we have supported the making of large-scale monumental works in Santiago de Cuba and in the rest of the country, with the objective of favouring the insertion of visual art pieces in Cuban social life.

In that line of action, we have prioritized bronze foundry in Caguayo's workshops, something quite hard from the economic point of view since monuments are not made everyday, and it is one of the most difficult specialisations globally, in terms of work and monumental-pieces creation.

With time, we have been able to demonstrate a quality that has ensured, in turn, a prestige. As a result, Cuban and foreign artists have come to visit our installations.

Another key to success within and outside national frontiers has been the integration with similar institutions.

Which has been the most important contribution of Caguayo in almost two decades?

Offering support to those artists who work in the development of monumental visual arts.

In Cuba there's an excellent formation of creators in the academies, but in practice they were facing the great problem of funding, specially those who intended to make large format works.

Caguayo offers alternatives, we don't solve the problem completely but we have contributed decisively, because many artists have seen their ideas come to life thanks to our institution, that includes melting, but also the support, production and promotion.

Alberto Lescay's works are widespread over many of Cuba's provinces. But perhaps it is in Santiago de Cuba where they highlight the most and where they, surrounded by anecdotes, leave the cold bronze to enter people's idiosyncrasy and they get filled with myths that walk from mouth to mouth.

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