Thursday, January 11, 2018

Cuban-American Art Collaboration, “Woman,” on Exhibit at Dordt College

Cross-cultural poster exhibit on display from now until February 11.

Sioux Center, Iowa: A new art exhibit is on display in the Dordt College gallery. The display, titled, “Woman,” is a series of posters examining a variety of different cultural depictions of womanhood.

Dordt art professor David Versluis first learned of the student-designed poster exhibit at a conference in Chicago, where his friend, Purdue professor Dennis Ichiyama, showed him the exciting new project.

The posters explore three distinct themes: Woman and Society, Woman and Family, and Great Women in History. The images are striking and evocative, and particularly poignant at our current moment in history.

This display was the result of a collaboration between Purdue University in Indiana and the Institute of Design in Havana, Cuba. Ichiyama visited Havana in 2015 and met with the Insitute’s administrators. During this meeting, they discussed the possibility of a joint project between the American and Cuban universities. The two institutions worked together to create a series of posters, which were then printed in the US by Xerox Corporation. But due to constraints from the 1960’s embargo on mailing, Ichiyama had to hand-deliver the posters to Havana, in time for the April 2016 exhibition.

This collaboration between the two countries is not merely artistic. It is historically momentous, as it represents attempted reparation of the rift between the United States and Cuba. American tourism is currently still a violation of Cuban federal law. President Obama’s 2016 visit to Havana was the first presidential visit to Cuba since Calvin Coolidge, 88 years prior. Although Obama’s visit set a precedent for rebuilding these international divides, the relations between the two countries remain strained. So artistic and scholarly collaborations, such as this poster display, are particularly meaningful in the current political climate.

The posters also have cultural significance. Cuba has made strides forward in the struggle to overcome the objectification of women, as was sometimes seen in traditional Cuban poster art. This new display represents a way of preserving this facet of the country’s cultural heritage, while reforming and reexamining its content.

A new set of these printed posters was produced specifically for the Dordt art gallery by Versluis and Ichiyama. The exhibit is free and open to the public. It will be on display at the Dordt College art gallery until February 11.

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