Marcos Pavón Estrada

    Due to the crippling effects of polio, Pavón was admitted for treatment at the Frank País Hospital in Havana which had a special school with a painting and sculpture teacher. When he returned to Holguín, he entered the Fine Art School and graduated in 1969. Later, he became a member of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists headquartered in Lichtenstein. He painted at home in a room overlooking the street using an easel of his own design that moved up and down.

    Pavón, fascinated as a child by his grandfather’s stories, created pictures of the witches, elves and gremlins that lurked the countryside of his childhood. He wanted to rescue the old treasure trove of rural mythology; the stories told by the old folk, the ones that were being forgotten as time went by. 

    Pavón said that getting started was always the most difficult part of each painting; the empty, white canvas always presented a challenge. When the first brushstrokes went on, the excitement began. He always started with a sketch and then applied the oils directly to it. Pavón drew straight lines with a thin, flat brush turned sideways in his mouth. He gave his figures a touch of shadow, let the paint dry and then put on the colors.
    Pavón liked strong colors; the stronger the color, the more pure the message, and he used contrasting colors to make his figures stronger along with strong brushstrokes to convey emotion. His witches frequently have purple dresses because purple is the macabre color of the occult.

    His painting La gritona des los niños muertos (The Woman Screaming for Her Dead Children) is impressive for its vivid brushstrokes which portray the agony of the ghostly mother wandering with her dead, unbaptized children in her arms. She is begging for someone to administer the sacrament to her babies. Her face, exploding with pain and rage, is drawn with strong, expressionist lines that seem torn into the canvas. There is a vivid, chromatic contrast between the central figure painted in yellow and the twisted tree, just as strong as the woman, painted in grey-blue, creating a strong and balanced composition. The background of mountains and stylized palm trees make it clear that this tragic scene is taking place in the Cuban countryside.

    In another of Pavón’s paintings Amor proletario (Proletarian Love), a factory setting provides the background for a pair of lovers tenderly embracing in front of chimneys belching smoke. The pure, vivid colors accentuate the look of love frozen on the couple’s faces. We are left to wonder if their happiness is caused by the lifestyle provided by the factory or in spite of it.

    Pavón deviates from Cuban themes in his painting titled Por Vietnam (For Vietnam) which he created during the Vietnamese war. He described it as a completely contemporary painting. Set against an abstract background, there is a bomb falling and a boy hiding in a sort of shelter. The bomb is tear-shaped representing grief for the suffering children. Perhaps this is also a comment on Pavón’s own painful childhood. The boy, who does not appear afraid, is just waiting for the future because Estrada believed that children have a right to the future no matter what the circumstance.

    Pavón was a courageous man who has left behind a collection of paintings that touch upon the eternal themes of life: pain and work, love and legend.

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