San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Icarus From a Cuban Artist’s Perspective

Cuban artist Ebenezer Leyva, 37, is painting black lines on ceiling-high white sheets of paper surrounding a contraption that looks like a homebuilt flying machine.

They’re the finishing touches of an improvised installation at his new exhibit, “El Viaje de Icaro ” (Icarus’ Journey), running through the end of the month at Galería Amón, in San José’s historic Barrio Amón neighborhood.

“I make getaway machines,” he says, his beard pointing down toward a surrealist’s vehicle – cobalt-blue bike wheels attached to a wing-like wire and iron frame. “In my life, I’ve seen people invent all sorts of contraptions to flee the country.”

Leyva left his native Santa Clara, Cuba, in 2000 and lived in Argentina, Brazil and Chile before moving to San José five years ago.

Icarus, Leyva says, is the “archetype” in most of the 23 works on display, which, in addition to the mixed-media installation, he painted in acrylics or oil.

According to Greek mythology, Icarus sought to escape Crete by flying away with wax wings, but he flew too close to the sun; his getaway appendages melted, and he dropped to his death. Some of the humanlike forms in Leyva’s paintings are broken, too, like fallen angels.

However, for this working artist and teacher, fleeing from a physical place is less important than the personal, internal journeys people strive for.

One of his paintings, he says, is trying to break free from its own cramped canvas. “I don’t see Icarus’ fall as the end, necessarily, but rather a part of the story that continues on,” Leyva says. “The fall is related to experience, too – experience that leads to life developments.”


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