Guillermo Orlando Piedra Labañino
Piedra is a painter, a caricaturist, a book illustrator, an actor and an athlete. As a child, he produced caricatures with the encouragement of his grandfather. His lifelong sense of humor and satire are reflected in his portrait paintings. Piedra’s interests in political commentary through art, along with his concern for social issues and the environment, have led to controversies. He has participated in several international competitions and his work has been exhibited in the United States, Latin America and Europe. Piedra has held numerous one-man exhibitions of his oil paintings, watercolors and caricatures. In 1997, he received the Guamo Award for his outstanding career from the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists.
Piedra began his art studies under Oscar Nelson, who shaped Piedra’s artistic potential, opening the way for his entry into the Academy of Fine Arts in Santiago de Cuba in 1967. But Piedra’s decisive formation took place at the National School for Art Education in Havana where he studied under excellent teachers, visited art museums, and was exposed to many stimuli that inspired his creative process. During the 1980’s, his energy took many forms. He was a cyclist, a tenor in the Worker’s Chorus, an illustrator for the literary magazine Maguana, an actor with the theatrical company Yonque, and an art teacher, distinguishing himself as an outstanding –watercolorist. Not until the 1990’s did Piedra decide to devote all of his talent to the visual arts. As co-founder and active member of the Tibaracon Group, he brought his deeply ingrained cultural identity and his personal history together in a singular series entitled “Baracoada”. His art gallery/studio La Musa has become a center for intense study by many students who approach the artist for guidance and direction in their painting. Piedra’s versatile technique intertwines with local customs and the reality of social condition to surprise and seduce the viewer with his creative spins.
Reflections by Piedra- "My father was a painter who made commercial signs for shops and did odd jobs including making political billboards. I lived with my grandparents in a rural area where there was only one radio. Occasionally I saw a magazine called Bohemia, and we had a few books. One, The History of Cuba, had some ink drawings by Hernandez Giro, which made a deep impression on me. While I was in high school, I received a scholarship to study at the National School for Art Teachers in Siboney, Havana. It was there that I began to understand the artist’s discipline, how to express my art, and the meaning of art and its concepts, aesthetics, and history. Our teachers were distinguished artists who shared their knowledge and experience with us. As we progressed we were able to exhibit with them at the reknowned Habana Gallery. With this background and the good fortune of having shared nearly a year with them that included visits to galleries and artist’s studios, I returned to Baracoa, a place that had very few facilities for exhibits and very few artists. At that time I shared a studio with Eliades Rodriguez, and together we began to develop a whole art movement that continues today. So, to answer a simple question, “why do I paint.” This is my story: I paint to honor my father from whom I inherited my talent for painting; I paint to honor my mother who conceived me as a human being; I paint for my grandparents who raised me; I paint for the teachers who gave me the knowledge and ability that would open doors to the world and would bring what I learned to the loveliest parts of my land; I paint because I dream that I will be able to paint everything that I’ve ever thought of; I paint my landscapes for my people because through my painting I represent them and I introduce them to other parts of the world; I paint because it has been the sustenance of my life, both spiritual and economic…I paint to leave behind works that are and will be a spiritual pleasure for mankind."