Cuban artist Miguel Angel Botalín Pampín grew up in a bohemian household in El Tivoli, a neighborhood in Santiago de Cuba. His father, Miguel Ángel Botalini Rius, was a Caracas native of faded Italian heritage, and the birthplace of his mother, Josefa Adelaida Pampín Fornet, is somewhat of a mystery. It could have been Pontevedra, Spain, or a Caribbean island. Miguel Ángel and Josefina married in 1913, infusing their children with that cultural mix that included a love of art, given that he drew sketches and she painted in oils. It is said that the highest expression of that mixture was their cooking, from which emerged the neighborhood’s most exotic dishes.
Botalín remembers growing up, “Once I filled a book owned by my sister Esperanza with drawings. Although I continued my regular studies, by age 14 I could depict a whole house. Everyone in the neighborhood knew that I could draw; I even drew some nude women, entirely from my imagination, and passed them around among some adults.
My life was like a never-ending movie. After lunch we would all gather in the living room, to listen to a piano piece by Rubinstein, or something my father would read us, or the story of a film. My family became very close, with a love of Cuba and universal values. There were always newspapers in the house and we all knew what was going on in the world.”
Miguel Ángel had the honor of becoming the first member of his family to attend an art academy, although other members shared his love of painting. He graduated in the late 1950s from the Santiago de Cuba Art School, which followed the tenets of the French Academy. However, Botalín had no interest in imitation, but rather in new and exciting creations.
The young painter’s enthusiasm led him to an alliance with others of a similar bent, but they had no place to work. In 1953, Professor Antonio Ferrer Cabello had opened the first Santiago de Cuba Gallery, renting what had been the Tejada house, and offered Botalín space. The latter accepted on the condition that his group be allowed to work there as well, which the professor considered an honor. The group members moved into that dilapidated second-floor space.
Botalín recalls, “For me, the real importance of the Gallery is that, with the efforts of that group, modern art was introduced in Santiago de Cuba, which had extended the 19th century into the middle of the 20th, culturally speaking.”
Botalín lived outside of Santiago de Cuba for quite a while. As a UNESCO official he traveled around the world, but his hometown never faded. He also worked as programming director for the Ministry of Culture; advisor to the Minister of Culture; director of Arte y Literatura publishing house, affiliated with the Cuban Book Institute; and of Revolución y Cultura magazine.
In the last decade of the 20th century, Botalín returned to Santiago de Cuba. Renewed contact with the city of his memories lit a flame within him, and he realized that it had been 36 years since he had painted!
In 1995 he held his first show, in his own house on Núñez de Balboa No. 8 – outside old Santiago – at a gallery he proudly named after José Antonio Portuondo. Later there would be other galleries, including the one in El Tivolí, near his old family home.
Botalín paints Santiago de Cuba with a palette knife and thinned out paint to achieve an appearance of distance. His backgrounds are strong with impasto and he converts the city into a form of light so the viewer is able not only to see the landscape but also to become part of it. He moves the viewer through city streets which are as important as the buildings are to the form of the painting. Sometimes he uses an aerial view which allows us to glide over the rooftops and follow the shadowed street to the sea. At other times, we are there, in mid-street, at the crest of a hill looking down toward the bay or up toward the mountains, but always with the buildings framing our view. The strong, dazzling light is always with us, soaking into our imagination and becoming our reality.
Waldo Leyva, whose poetry defines Santiago de Cuba, once wrote, “For Miguel Ángel Botalín the city is both dream and agony. I saw the malleable substance of light that reveals another temperature of the city hidden until now.”
Miguel Angel Botalín – Biografía
Nació el 8 de marzo de 1932 en Santiago de Cuba. Graduado en Pintura y Escultura por la Escuela de Arte de Santiago de Cuba y Licenciado en Ciencias Jurídicas por la Universidad de La Habana. Miembro fundador de la Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba.
En el año 1957 participó en la creación del Taller de Plástica y fue redactor jefe de su revista y en la Fundación del Centro Cultural “Galería”, que dio cábida a todas las especialidades y corrientes artísticas en Santiago de Cuba.
Continuó hasta el año 1995 participando activamente en la creación y divulgación de la cultura y el arte de Cuba, al igual que propició el conocimiento de otras culturas artísticas de diversos países en Cuba. Ha ocupado distintos cargos culturales como:
* Director Cultural de la Provincia de Oriente con sede en Santiago de Cuba
* Director Cultural de la Universidad de la Provincia de Oriente
* Director de Programación del Ministerio de Cultura
* Director de la Editorial Arte y Literatura del Instituto Cubano del Libro
* Asesor del Ministerio de Cultura
* Asesor Cultural en la UNESCO
* Historiador de la Ciudad Santiago de Cuba
Ha viajado por Europa Occidental, Europa del Este, la Unión Soviética, China, América Latina, el Caribe y Estados Unidos, dando a conocer la obra cultural y artística de Cuba, incluyendo la suya propia, lo que le ha supuesto el reconocimiento de la crítica y diversos galardones por su destacada aportación a la Cultura Cubana.
Su obra plástica ha sido expuesta en Cuba, el Caribe, América Latina, Europa y Estados Unidos de America. Sus cuadros se encuentran en diversas colecciones en Cuba, Estados Unidos, México, Martinica, Venezuela, Uruguay, Italia y España.
En la actualidad es miembro del Consejo Técnico Asesor del la Casas del Caribe en Cuba. Ejerce como artista plástico independiente en Santiago de Cuba.
See Pampin’s work.
Santiago Cityscape w/figure 27×20 Oil on Canvas