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Free the Cuban Five!

‘From My Altitude’ art exhibit opens at USSF

Published Jun 30, 2010 5:33 PM

As a part of the U.S. Social Forum, the artwork of Antonio Guerrero, one of the Cuban Five, was displayed in an exhibit called “From My Altitude.” The Cuban Five are Antonio Guerrero, René González, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Fernando González. They are five Cuban men who, while fighting to protect Cuba from terrorism, were wrongly convicted on espionage and conspiracy charges against the U.S. government. They have been unjustly incarcerated in the United States since 1998.

WW photo: Megan Spencer

The exhibit, which is being shown through July 8, is located at the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center in downtown Detroit. The opening of the exhibit on June 23 was attended by 100 people and included food, live music, poetry and a short film about the struggle of the Cuban Five featuring actor and activist Danny Glover. In addition, several speakers offered thoughts about the event and the struggle for justice for the Cuban Five.

Alicia Jrapko, the coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five, spoke about the injustices inflicted upon the Cuban Five and called for increased support and activism for their liberation. The president of the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center, Oliver Ragsdale, also spoke, offering support for both the Cuban Five and Guerrero’s exhibit.

Cheryl LaBash of Detroit’s Justice for Cuba Coalition chaired the event, which also heard solidarity remarks from Abayomi Azikiwe of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice. T-shirts, books, DVDs and artwork in support of justice for the Cuban Five were available at the opening.

Guerrero began making art in 2003, after participating in a drawing class taught by another prisoner. In his artwork, Guerrero uses a variety of artistic media, including watercolor, acrylic paint, oil paint, airbrushing, pastel and pencil. His artwork draws on a range of images and ideas, often reflecting a love for nature and the struggle for justice.

The exhibit displays paintings of animals, including cats and birds and landscapes of nature, showing mountains in Colorado (where Guerrero is imprisoned), the ocean and beaches, as well as several nostalgic landscapes and cityscapes in Cuba. Sketched portraits of the mothers of each of the Cuban Five are also part of the display.

Guerrero’s artwork conveys a definite political and struggle-oriented boldness, as evident in his multiple portraits of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Elián and Juan Miguel González. Despite being imprisoned, Guerrero’s activism and work persists, in large part through the traveling exhibition of his artwork and its inherent messages of appreciating nature, struggle and liberation.

In addition to this event, several workshops focusing on freedom for political prisoners in the U.S. were held during the Social Forum.

Spencer is a senior at Michigan State University and a revolutionary artist.