With "P.U.E.N.T.E.," Artist Belaxis Buil Bridges the Cuban-American Divide

"It's hard for me to define my identity. Because I have been to Cuba — over a decade ago, before this craze — I can say that I am Cuban," explains Belaxis Buil. "Stepping out of the plane, I felt relieved. I actually cried. After spending time on the island and becoming acquainted with the people, I realized how Cuban I was. It had to do with the vernacular. Cubans are pictorial characters; we are myths with larger-than-life personalities and loud voices."

Buil has built an artistic career in South Florida and throughout the Caribbean since her days at New World School of the Arts. Through writings, music, installations, performances, design, video, and photography, Buil has created thought-provoking discourse on humanity's contemporary struggles. Now, in the wake of Fidel Castro's death and during Miami's biggest arts season, she's curating a group show that aims to connect Cuba and the United States.

A week before Art Basel's opening, news of Fidel Castro finally biting the bullet that many exiles have been wishing upon him for more than a half-century filled the airwaves. Outliving many of his detractors, bedeviling heads of state, and remaining a constant thorn in the USA's side, he was finally dead at the age of 90. Castro was also a bizarre muse for hundreds of artists who'd been forced by the dictator's atrocities to work differently, under pressure, clandestinely, and, in many cases, far from their heart's home.

For Buil, who's taking a more curatorial role during this year's Miami Art Week, Castro's demise couldn't have happened at a better time. Along with the New York-based arts organization Art for Progress (AFP), she'll bring to Basel a strong link between South Florida and Cuban culture with a pair of events that will stray from the traditional art-fair fare, marrying Cuban and U.S. cultures while celebrating the many aspects of Buil's interests. "We have similar visions. Our stance [is] on using fine art as a platform to discuss, debate, and focus on social issues. AFP works in developing and educating the artist from the business standpoint; I as curator/choreographer work with the artist to position the works to challenge the viewer."

Today their group show, "P.U.E.N.T.E (Porque Ustedes Entienden Nuestros Temas en Candela)," will open at 1052 Ocean Dr. and run through Sunday. It will feature the works of Nestor Arenas, Willie Avedano, Orestes De La Paz, Michael Gray, Stephanie Hibbard, Catalina Jaramillo, Brandy Lynn, Guido Mena, Natasha Perdomo, Rafael Ramos, and Cristina Victor.

"The show will be highlighting the American, Cuban, and Cuban-American artist observations — the same issues and wondering what changes are to come," Buil explains. "With the changes come concerns; with the concerns comes the questioning of what the solution will be, and then we notice we are in the same boat, no pun intended. We are in it together. So what are we going to do?"

Saturday night will glam up a bit with "Cosa Rica," a fashion show of Buil's Cuban-inspired ready-to-wear fashions and a curated musical and performative element that will be a welcome respite during the busy weekend. "Each piece is unique and not sold as mass wear," she says regarding her fashion line as a work of art. "When I think of fashion on a conceptual level, it is identity, and we know life is theater. It's an enhancement to who we are and see in ourselves. In the madness of Art Basel, there is no madness for me. The site-specific pieces I have been creating in the last few years create a pocket of quiet. I like to think I am providing the audience and the people involved a surreal haven. No chaos."

6 to 9 p.m. Friday, December 2, at 1052 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach. The show will be on view through Sunday, December 4. "Cosa Rica" runs from 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday, December 3, on the 1052 rooftop. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased here. Visit
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Abel Folgar

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