The art wasn’t even on the walls before artist Carlos Rene Aguilera Tamayo received his first review.
The artist had traveled to the Bellefonte Art Museum all the way from his family’s studio in Santiago de Cuba, bringing with him a series of paintings and images created using waterless lithography.
Most of them were still sitting on the floor when a curious young girl walked in, a straggler from the summer camp that was being held elsewhere on the premises.
Her reaction — or at least the one he tries to mirror using his own face a short while later — is priceless. If this were a movie and he a method actor, you could be forgiven for thinking that a production assistant was holding the leash to a pony somewhere just off camera.
Aguilera doesn’t require the extra motivation, though. He arrived in Bellefonte preheated.
“When I see what happened in this museum I’m getting new ideas, I’m getting fuel to keep going,” Aguilera said.
It helps that his Bellefonte excursion marks the Cuban artist’s first time in America since 1997 and the cross-cultural appeal lends the entire exhibit a sense of occasion.
Much of Aguilera’s work deals in themes of inter-connectivity between the world and the people who call it home.
“I think that good people deserve to be together to share their art,” Aguilera said.
None of this takes away from the sweet setup that Aguilera has back home.
The Aguilera Workshop is an institution dedicated to the visual arts that was passed down to the next generation by his father, Jose Julian Aguilera Vicente, an artist who specialized in printmaking and woodcuts.
According to the younger Aguilera, his father left behind decades of tradition and a sterling reputation, some of which will be on display at the Bellefonte Art Museum.
Sharing wall space with some of his father’s work means a lot to Aguilera.
“My father was my teacher in many things,” Aguilera said.
There are a few new tricks that he picked up on his own, though. The lithographs that the artist will have on display at the museum were made using a waterless technique that he picked up in Canada.
The old process allowed sizable room for error, while this most recent method allows for a smoother translation of the artist’s intended image.
“It’s stronger in that what you put here goes when you print,” Aguilera said.
One of the more common motifs in the artist’s work is the presence of polar bears. Visitors to the exhibit will notice them popping up everywhere, from bathtubs to bars.
The artist likes to use the animals to diffuse some of the seriousness inherent in his themes, a trick that he learned years ago.
“Something very hard, very serious, could be relaxed by something weird that appeared,” Aguilera said.
The exhibit, “Cuban Art, A Family Workshop,” opens at the Bellefonte Art Museum on Friday and runs through Sept. 25.
An opening will be held noon-4:30 p.m. on Sunday.
So far, Aguilera has been overwhelmed by the reception that he has received.
“It makes me feel strongly that Bellefonte was the right place to start,” he said.
IF YOU GO
- What: “Cuban Art, A Family Workshop”
- When: through Sept. 25; opening noon-4:30 p.m. Aug. 7
- Where: Bellefonte Art Museum, 133 N. Allegheny St., Bellefonte
- Info: http://www.bellefontemuseum.org