Arts & Entertainment

Young Cuban artist mixes queer esthetic with politics

By Juan Carlos Espinosa

Havana, Dec 8 (EFE).- For Cuban artist Alejo Cañer, few things are explosive as the combination of sex and politics, and the “universes” he creates using that formula will be on display in Havana for the rest of this month.

“Escupir la cara” (Spit in the Face), an exhibition of posters by the 21-year-old graphic designer, opened Thursday at the Fabrica de Arte Cubano cultural center.

At the entrance to the show is an image of a handsome, muscular man in his underwear wearing lipstick and supporting on his shoulders another man with the Cuban national coat of arms tattooed on his bare chest.

Behind the two men is the caption, “Military Service.”

Nearby is a Pop Art rendering of national hero Antonio Maceo, a depiction of Kim Kardashian clad in a blouse with the logo of the Federation of Cuban Women and the image of a naked young man in high heels gripping the leg of a police officer.

The creations feature vibrant colors, elements of revolutionary iconography, snapshots of daily life and a queer esthetic.

Cañer acknowledges to EFE that he organized the show on “a whim” as an opportunity to see friends and to gain exposure for his work beyond the people who follow him on Instagram.

The aim of his pieces, he says, is to “normalize” behaviors that until relatively recently were regarded in Cuba as “improper.”

Three months ago, a new Family Code legalizing same-sex marriage and adoption, among other reforms, was approved in a referendum. While some activists have hailed the development as a modest victory for a once-persecuted collective, others, such as Cañer, say that decades of homophobia can not be erased at the stroke of a pen.

“There is still a long way to go, it’s not a question of approving a code or approving a law and it’s done. It’s about exercising it, about the citizen’s understanding that there is no need to approve a law to show respect,” he tells EFE.

He points out that he is not the first Cuban artist to fuse sexuality with a political message.

“I am not doing anything novel. I am creating my vision of how a Cuban can be part of another, more liberal universe. I try to position (the posters) in extremely political places because the force of this image of a queer person is the attitude that everybody should have,” Cañer says.

In 2020, he caused a stir with his poster, “La Lucha” (The Struggle), which took the form of an LGBTQ+ rainbow flag composed of six machetes reminiscent of those wielded by Cuban independence fighters in the 19th century. EFE jce/dr

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