Cuban Exile Jorge Mayet Builds Tiny Worlds as Tribute to His Homeland

by Margot BuermannPosted on

Jorge Mayet’s miniature floating sculptures serve as compelling metaphors for the artist’s complex relationship to his native country. Mayet was born in Cuba, yet has been living and working in Mallorca, Spain as an expatriate. Despite the circumstances, his sculptures are devoid of any intentional political statement. Instead, they explore the artist’s personal experiences with exile and displacement, and the powerful nostalgia for one’s homeland left behind.

Crafted from painted sponge, paper mache, and fabric, the sculptures are suspended from the ceiling with fishing wire, which gives them the appearance of weightlessness. Trees look as if they were ripped straight from the earth, while thatched roof houses cling to the patches of land beneath them. Decorated with feathers, banana leaves and colorful yarn, the structures reflect the geography of Mayet’s beloved Cuba as well as the spiritual and cultural practices of the Cuban people. For example, in “Y Obtala”, root systems are embellished with bird feathers in tribute to Obtala Santo, a god of the Afro-Cuban religion Yoruba. The trees may also represent the artist himself, forever bound to his homeland by birth yet severed by physical distance.

Mayet was born in 1962 in La Havana and is a graduate of San Alejandro’s National School of Fine Arts. His early career focused mostly on painting before shifting to his current sculptures and installations. The artist recently told Gulf News, “Regardless of the medium I use, my work is about the never-ending need to express moments that have marked my past and influence my present. The majority of my life experiences come from Cuba. And these are the inspiration for my work. My installations are embodiments of my experiences. They remain indefinitely suspended from invisible wires, like the ones that connect me to my memories and my roots.”

A selection of Mayet’s sculptures is currently on view at Richard Taittinger Gallery in New York through August 21. Titled Broken Landscape, the exhibition is Mayet’s first major solo in the United States. The gallery’s press release reads: “[Broken Landscape] presents an anthology of remnants and collective memories; an interlacing of fleeting moments belonging to the artist and to the Cuban diaspora… the artist gives voice to the diaspora’s longing for the traditions, vigor and quotidian of Cuban life… Influenced by local lore, craft, and personal memory, Mayet’s work flourishes, reverently paying homage to the complexities and mystery of his homeland.”

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