When they take the field on Opening Day this afternoon, the Chicago White Sox roster will include no less than four Cuban players, part of an unprecedented wave of Cuban talent in Major League Baseball.
As it happens, the first art exchange in more than 50 years between art institutions in the U.S. and Cuba took place in Key West and Havana last month, and it had a serious baseball flavor. Roads & Kingdoms was there for the (somewhat controversial) Florida leg of the exchange and met Reynerio Tamayo, a master of many media for whom baseball is not just an obsession, but also the perfect lens for viewing the absurdities of the U.S.—Cuban divide.
He spoke to us via email today about Opening Day, Cubans’ love for baseball, and the growing opportunities for Cuban artists in the world.
The True Superman. Oil on canvas. Reynerio Tamayo.
Roads & Kingdoms: Why is baseball so central to much of your art?
Reynerio Tamayo: In my third year of art school, I did a series of baseball-themed watercolors on paper—that was my first experience of painting the sport. The series was then shown in a solo exhibition in Havana. After this experience I revisited the theme occasionally, but it wasn’t my main idea… I was immersed in other series, other ideas, other motivations. But I came back to baseball for an homage to the Cuban National Team in the most recent World Baseball Classic.
When Nance Frank [who organized the recent Key West show] visited my workshop in Havana, she told me about One Race/The Human Race, intended as an exchange between artists from Cuba and the U.S…. I loved the idea. Nance encouraged me to create a sample with the baseball theme, because it’s a sport that people are passionate about in both the U.S. and in Cuba.