Ryan Reveals 5 Plein Air Paintings Completed in Cuba—and More

By Purnell T. Cropper | July 31, 2012

Abbey Ryan>, Visiting Assistant Professor of Art and Design, captured the vivid colors and awe-inspiring landscapes of Cuba in five postcard-sized oil paintings during Arcadia University’s inaugural Global Faculty Development Workshop at the University of Havana. Since returning to the United States, she has posted images of all five paintings on her blog, ryanstudio.blogspot.com, and published some intriguing notes about the six-day seminar. In a July 25 post, Ryan recalls her conversations with painter Reynier Ferrer about the difficulties Cuban artists face just getting supplies:

I attended three lectures given by Cuban scholars, and during one lecture, I learned that artists in Cuba can get multiple exit visas. On our last day in Cuba I met one of those artists, Reynier Ferrer (here he is on his motorcycle), who has been a resident artist in the U.S. and his work has been included in many exhibitions, including a solo exhibition at Lincoln Center. We talked a bit about his work and Rey told me that he’s particularly interested in Informalismo Europeo, Debuffet, Antoni Tápies, Anselm Kiefer, DeKooning, and Franz Klein. As I mentioned in the interview, art supplies in Cuba are difficult to find; I was told that it can take many months to get something like a palette knife. So, before I left, I bought a bunch of art supplies, packed them in my suitcase, and Rey delivered them to his alma mater, San Alejandro Academy, which is the oldest and most prestigious academy in Cuba. I was also fortunate to tour the ISA, Universidad de las Artes, which is the art university/institute in Cuba. We met the Dean and some faculty and students, and I found the architecture & studios to be fascinating. If you’re interested, I invite you to learn more here.

In an interview with Dr. John Noakes, Ryan identifies one of the consequences of this phenomenon—more resilient, more resourceful artists. As one of them explained to her, “All it means really is that … we are more intentional … about using everything and anything within our power to create.” Watch the complete interview (39:35) including footage from Cuba and of Ryan’s paintings. Video by JoLynne Bremmer ’10