The work of the Cuban-born artist Ignacio Jose Fernandez Morales reflects three aspects of his experience: his book Ex Cuba Libris, the “Americas” journals and watercolors, and his plein aire watercolors of landscapes and seascapes in the western United States.
Ex Cuba Libris
In his book he strives to answer the questions “Do you support the Cuban Revolution?” and “How do you feel about Fidel Castro?” He states, “Ever since I came to the USA from Cuba in 1960 I’ve struggled with the feelings that these questions provoked.” As a response, he began a series of paintings named “Ex Cuba Libris,” in reference to the sketch book he used to begin exploring concepts on the subject. He frequently used humor when addressing “Cuba’s forbidden cows,” deconstructing or reinterpreting symbols and icons, such as flags and heroes that no longer seem to have any relevance in contemporary Cuba.
“The more I got into the work, the more complicated it got; it seemed as if I had to put together a weaving from politics, religion, power, icons, identity, survival, language, and culture. I used the most common products associated with Cuba: sugar, coffee, and tobacco as the structure onto which all these different threads were to be woven into. By also working in larger formats, it allowed me to include more detail and the strength needed to apply thick sugar washes and attach collages made from coffee and tobacco leaves.”
The resulting book of journal images called Ex Cuba Libris can be ordered from Lulu for $19.30 (plus shipping).
The Americas Journals
The journals and watercolors shown are the result of a three-year journey (1990-1993) Fernandez took through Latin America. Traveling ruggedly by local transportation, he planned to visit pre-Colombian sites and do a book on Mayan architecture. In the end, he followed instinct and inclination. This led to such varied adventures as crossing the Darien Gap on foot, assisting biologists documenting the migration of the Olive Ridley sea turtle in Costa Rica, and staying with the Shuar indians, ex-head hunters in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In all he visited twelve countries in-depth, completed over three hundred watercolors, and filled thirteen journals with experiences and sketches.
Fernandez continues to record his travel experiences and thoughts through the plein aire painting method. Fernandez states, “Being born on the island of Cuba, I’ve felt drawn to the ocean. I live in Santa Monica, California, near the sea. Once there, I can’t resist sitting down with my watercolors and discover through the brush and paint what I see and know.”