Recently, four artists — two from Penn State Abington, Bonnie Levinthal and Yvonne Love; and two from Arcadia University, Abbey Ryan and Scott Rawlins — were granted a rare opportunity. They were invited to the island nation of Cuba for six days to participate in an artistic cultural exchange with other artists on the island.

During their visit, the American artists collaborated with Cuban artists using art material from the island itself. After this experience, they came back with a host of remarkable and varied work representing their time in Cuba. Returning with them was visiting Cuban scholar Dr. Raúl Rodríguez, deputy director of the Center for Hemispheric and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Havana, to help teach at Arcadia.

Together, all five of them have put together an art exhibit displaying not only the work of the four artists, but also art material of and media from Cuba itself. Titled "Mitos and Realidades: Inspiraciones de la Republica de Cuba" (Myths and Realities: Inspirations from the Republic of Cuba), the exhibit runs until Jan. 6, 2013. Held and displayed in the Commons Gallery of the University Commons building of Arcadia, the exhibit is open to the public.

Walking into the exhibit, one will find a host of artifacts from Cuba, as well as varied artistic interpretations of the island from North Americans who so rarely get to visit the this beautiful and mysterious nation.

On one side of the exhibit are displayed the works of Abbey Ryan, an art teacher at Arcadia, who since 2007 has done, on average, one painting a day in an ongoing project. Incorporating her visit to Cuba into her larger ongoing project she came back with a series of five landscapes, breathtaking in their use of perspective, detail and representation of the beauty of an uncorrupted and unspoiled land.

Adjacent to Ryan’s display are the works of Scott Rawlins, her colleague from Arcadia, whose specialty is making biological and medical illustrations that are so lifelike that they almost look alive themselves. Rawlins was much more focused on the natural history of the island than the culture that was explored by the other three artists.

In a nation that has been untouched by the forces of environmental exploitation, Rawlins was able to capture the beauty and essence of Cuba’s flora and fauna.

In the center of the exhibit are three walls filled with artifacts and material from Cuba itself, including English language newspapers, political cartoons, ceramic religious statues, street art, photography from the island, a book published in Cuba by a poet who has lived both in the United States and Cuba, and art from Cuban artists. This display makes the exhibit much more than an art show, shedding light on modern-day Cuban society that would be hard to find even in a major museum.

Lastly, on the far left, are the works of the two artists from Penn State Abington, Bonnie Levinthal and Yvonne Love. Unlike Ryan and Scott Rawlins, who did mostly landscapes and drawings of natural history, Levinthal and Love, who collaborated on their artwork, instead delved into the pathos of a society that few of us understand in abstract works of art.

Their collages not only incorporate the material they found on the island but are also interlaid with poetry that creates a sense of mystic beauty. Many of these works, which have a certain gentle beauty about them, are also embedded with hooks and nails, reminding us of the ruggedness of this mysterious country.

From detailed landscapes of Cuba, to drawings of its natural history, to its social and cultural realities, this exhibit offers a deeply spiritual and poetic glimpse into a nation that has been largely closed from view.

To learn more about the exhibit and the artists featured within, one can visit the following websites:

http://yvonnelove.com/home.html

http://yvonneloveblog.wordpress.com/category/cuba/

http://bonnielevinthal.com/home.html

http://bonnielevinthal.blogspot.com/

http://abbeyryan.com/

http://ryanstudio.blogspot.com/.

IF YOU GO

“Mitos & Realidaddes:

Inspiraciones de la

Republica de Cuba”

will be on view

in the Commons Gallery

of University Commons,

Arcadia University,

450 S. Easton Road,

Glenside, PA 19038,

through Jan. 6, 2013.

Info: 215-572-2900 or

www.arcadia.edu.

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