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By: Yuniet Escobar Ortega



Getting through to Nelson Domínguez might seem a difficult task if we keep in mind that he is an extremely hard-working person and who carries his paintbrushes on the shoulder to leave evidence of what happens around him. However, a single phone call was needed to arrange a meeting. The day? Nelson said any day; the hour?, very early in the morning; the place?, at Oficios gallery.

I remember we arrived earlier and he was already in his workshop among paintbrushes, paintings, coal and elegua, the same which accompanied us during the whole conversation. From the entrance hall you could listen to the melody of music I could not tell, but which got my attention strongly in the few minutes we waited for Nelson.

- Excuse my dirty hands, but I was working in one of the works I plan to take to the exhibition Im preparing. So I was just working a bit before you arrive.

- So its true what they say about you. So early and you are already painting.

- Yes, I am a person who works every day. I like waking up pretty early and work. I see in Picasso the example of that industrious man that all plastic artists should be, he told us with that simplicity that characterizes him and that he kept during the entire conversation with Cubasí, where he talked about his origins, the music, the dance, the situation of the art market in Cuba and he revealed details of his life.

-I once read that you approached engraving, ceramics, and painting almost at the same time. Could you tell us how that approach was with plastic arts?

- I think that to do that I must start from the very beginning. I was born in Baire, Santiago de Cuba, and I lived in that area more or less until I was seven years old, then my father moved out to Sierra Maestra. There we spent the whole process of revolutionary struggle. I even carried some yuccas for the rebellious army because there was a transition camp in my father's lands. I had the chance to meet Camilo exactly when he was heading for Santa Clara. I met Fidel himself one day in front of my house trying to speak through a radio station that was not working properly. After the triumph of the revolution I went to the city school Camilo Cienfuegos, Caney de las Mercedes, where I also met Che one day that he went to a voluntary work. I have always said that that school was the first laboratory made by Fidel as the school system thought by Martí. We worked in the morning and we studied indistinctly in the afternoon.

"There was an international brigade in that school with people from several countries, there was a soccer professor, Ángel Maldonado from Ecuador, two Mexican, and a Chilean who was a teacher. The latter had been graduated in Valparaíso. We started on ceramics with them, as well as drawing, to prepare the cloths, to paint. Hence a whole new world of opportunities was opened in front of us. In that place I also met Herminio Almendros Arbelo, a great educator who introduced back then the systems of leaflet printing and we made engravings, we printed them and a large collection of books was made then. This means that we were in a favorable atmosphere to practice several things. I either joined the soccer team that sang in a choir, I played the accordion.

"It was really a very beautiful moment, where for me everything was new. Once high school was over there were opportunities to study several things. I planned on studying sport medicine because I thought I liked it. The school director in that time whom I have always said that he was like my father or mentor, told me: 'No, you won't study any sport medicine, you go for the National School of Art'. He had already sent a letter to director Bertha Serguera and I have no other choice than going and take the exams. I had to wait several months for the incorporation of the other students. Back then I was with other young people learning and I found it quite amusing and profitable. Especially to change my way of being, that change from the country side to the city was not easy. I had an advantage and it was that I had read a lot.

- What memories does the National School of Art of Cubanacán bring to you?

- The dichotomy student-professor can be complicated and it regularly requires time to get used to that duality and in the case of the professor to attain certain distanced to focus on that role and share as professor with those who were our teachers. The experience I have is many students from the generation of Zaida del Río until year 1985 when I was professor at ENA and ISA from that year on I quit teaching and began to devote more time to the professional work. There were many commitments of travels, exhibitions and its sometimes a bit difficult for a professor to handle both things. I think that either you stand before your students or traveling, exposing.

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