Monsters' Business by José Pantoja

Date: 
Friday, May 5, 2017 (All day) to Thursday, May 25, 2017 (All day)

Monsters’ Business: The Big Business of Immigration

José Antonio Pantoja Hernández was born in Cuba in 1971. As artist who grew up in the Mayabeque Province of Cuba, in the city of Bejucal, "Pantoja" received apprenticeships as a carpenter and woodworker using antiquated tools. As his interests turned to painting and sculpting, he sought visual inspiration from a small collection of art books that showcased mainly works from Masters.By 2002, Pantoja paintings began to depicted everyday life in Cuba. As a member of a state-sponsored art collective, Pantoja was eventually able to exhibit his works on the streets of the Havana promenade, "El Paseo Del Prado.” There, he would often only display one or two paintings a week, selling them to tourists. Over time, his work became more surreal and somber. Eventually, he began to paint what he calls "the errors of the Revolution." The director of the Queretaro City Museum in Mexico learned about Pantoja's work in 2011 and sent him an invitation to display his work in the museum. Pantoja was able to parlay that invitation into a special pass to leave Cuba. He said goodbye to his friends and family and boarded a plane to Mexico with eight paintings. When he landed in Mexico City in June of 2011, he decided not to exhibit his work and instead took a bus to border town of Nuevo Laredo. There, he crossed into U.S. border and asked for political asylum. The story of his defection was chronicled in August 2011 issue of This Land press, today Pantoja lives and paints in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

 

The video below, from This Land Press and the late, great Lee Roy Chapman, "takes our favorite Cuban artist and expatriate, José Antonio Pantoja Hernández, on a driving lesson in his van. The result is a surprisingly moving portrait of Pantoja as he recounts the perils he faced in his daring escape to the United States."