A city, an artist, a dream
Martha Jimenez has achieved what many artists dream of: leaving their mark on the city. In the old Villa of Santa Maria del Puerto del Príncipe -third founded in Cuba by the Spaniards on February 2, 1514-, today Camaguey, located about 500 kilometers from the Cuban capital, will be the imprint of this woman who makes more than three decades opted for the visual arts, a path that began to travel from an early age.
In a recent interview with the Lights and Shadows program, of Habana Radio, Martha Jimenez reaffirmed that she is the result of the first graduation of the School of Art Instructors, in 1971: “I am from the same course as Choco (Eduardo Roca Salazar), Ernesto Garcia Peña, Isavel Jimeno, Raymond Orozco, among others; when I graduated as an instructor I went to work as such and there began my relationship with teaching, working with children and young people combined with creation. To that I have dedicated my life.
Teaching has been for you as a priesthood. Why, when you are already a recognized artist, are you still linked to teaching?
The creation steals time and we have to dedicate many hours a day, but I have a community project with children called Brush with soul of kiss. I am interested in the formation of the new generations and I do not mean that they learn to paint, but that the visual arts help man to shape his behavior and contribute to the development of psychic-mental aspects. It is important to be aware of how essential art is and since children give them musical knowledge, for example ... it is something that helps training and, in the long run, will make them better human beings.
You have done painting, engraving, drawing, but pottery seems to take a special place …
With ceramics you can apply all the knowledge you have in the world of fine arts. Unfortunately, it has been considered 'the cinderella of the fine arts' and in the fight to claim the demonstration we must always thank our Amelia Pelaez -who did an impressive work in enameled ceramics-, to Alejando G. Alonso, director of the National Museum of the Cuban Contemporary Ceramics, -key person in the defense and salvation of ceramics in our country- and the teacher Alfredo Sosabravo who has exalted her.
There is an extremely interesting aspect and it has been that for some time, it has been possible to include ceramics as a subject in the methodology of artistic education and students graduated from the Higher Institute of Art, ISA, have done serious work in this support. At the dawn of humanity, pottery was born from a utilitarian need -to make vessels and containers- but immediately began to decorate them. In Camaguey, for example, there has always been a great pottery tradition that goes from the tiles made with mud to the tinajon, emblem of the city.
The oven is the great mystery for the potter. Has it happened that the oven has spoiled a piece?
Yes, and it can happen due to physical, chemical and even electrical problems; opening the oven door is always a magical act because you will face great surprises that can fill you with joy, but also with frustration.
Some potters have told me that sometimes the accidents that occur inside the oven are beneficial for the pieces.
True, an accident can result in a better piece. It has happened to me that accidents have occurred that have embellished the pieces, that is to say, the opposite of what has happened, but for the better.
You participated in the V International Sculpture Symposium held in Turkey and with the piece "Gineta", you won an award. Was it an important moment in your career?
Sculptors from Turkey, Germany, England, Korea, the United States and Cuba have participated there. I made two pieces that were placed in an ecological park in Istanbul. I had never done a work of three meters; I had previously made sculptures up to 1.40 but I had never worked in that dimension.
In 2010 you were the only Latin American to be awarded at the Shanghai Biennale of Modern Art in China.
The Biennial was dedicated to the vessel and, really, it was a real surprise. It is a piece of a series entitled “Ours is ours” and “I have it inside”. It is a tribute to the yagua, which is used to make ceilings and with which the representative houses of the fields of Cuba are built.
And UNESCO Prize with “The woman without neighbor”.
I won that prize for a set of five pieces that I made for the International Crafts Fair. UNESCO also awarded me the prize for the Best Architectural Ensemble.
A part of your work relies on the fat and Caribbean women, why?
It is something very inner. In my work I have two aspects: one conceptual and another manners. There was a stage in my life when I almost didn't have time to create because my role as a mother was hoarding me all the time. At that time, those characters born from reality emerged, but they also have a lot of fabulation.
Why are you interested in looking at your immediate surroundings? What do you find in the common of the Camagueyan people that passes in front of your house?
I like to investigate the psychological character of each of the characters, their contradictory features and catch facts and reactions that happen in real life. I am also interested in the characteristic gestures of the Cuban and I mean both men and women. Among my themes is to represent what happens in real life and as an artist I worry that the viewer feels part of the work and that he is represented in it.
You touch the feminine theme, but without belonging to any feminist trend …
I do not defend any feminist trend, but I am interested in representing women within their world as a very important entity at the social level and bearer of solid values. Unfortunately, in Cuba, women still do not take their rightful place; I believe that we are still renegade and do not have the space that we should occupy at the level of society. However, I believe that we Cubans have much more rights and recognition than other women, including those from the first world who are exploited, who have nowhere to work, that wages are lower than those of men even when they do the same activity. Undoubtedly, in Cuba, women have achieved conquests, but there are still, sometimes, it is sometimes the same woman who is not valued.
If you had to choose between the art manifestations you dabble, would you bet on ceramics?
I would bet on modeling because I can do it without having to take it to ceramics but to another material. For example, something that is modeled can "empty" bronze and not ceramics. I think that in my pictorial work there is a direct influence of volume. When I model -I mean mud- I don't make drawings or sketches but I go straight to creation and it's how it works best. Because of the high level of experimentation that it presupposes and because of the possibility of working with textures, I love engraving.
Your work has left a mark on Camaguey. Perhaps the sculpture to Santa Maria is the best example?
That piece was born in a very spontaneous way and, even when I finished it, I realized that I had done something special for Camaguey; It is located on Ignacio Agramonte Street, in Plaza del Gallo, in the lobby of the Santa Maria Hotel. There are also sculptures of mine in Plaza del Carmen, on Camaguey Avenue, and on the Longitudinal Park, where there is a ceramic mural -seventeen by three meters- attached to the wall.
You have worked in vitrified mud, what do you contribute to the work?
In the shell, and the results are impressive. You can make a sculptural ceramic with volumes and textures, but when you work color it is another work and they are other codes and other effects that will be included in that sculpture. That cover will provide the work with other readings.
What is the dreamed art work?
I wish I could make a large piece in Cuba. When I projected the sculptures that are in the Plaza del Carmen, the characters were about three meters, but when analyzing the height of the surrounding buildings it was impossible to make them to that size; hence the sculptures were conceived on a real, human scale. Let's see when and where I can make the three-meter sculpture that I dream of.
What is Camaguey for you?
Although it is not the place where I was born, here I have developed all my work and constituted my family. I travel, I have been around for a while, but I feel an irresistible desire to return because it is the place where I can create. In this world, Camaguey is my place.
Author: Estrella Diaz
Photo: Alexis Rodriguez