Mario Perez (artist)
Mario Perez (born June 17, 1943) is an award-winning Cuban artist.
Perez emigrated to the United States as a teenager and has focused his artistic career primarily on documenting the pre-war Havana of his youth. He is noted for his urban landscapes often recreated from memory. His work has become especially popular in Cuban expatriate communities, such as in south Florida, where collectors celebrate his ability to recapture the tone and atmosphere of 1940s and 1950s Cuba before the revolution. Perez works primarily in a combination of pen/ink and watercolor, though some of his most noted (and most overtly political) work appears in oil on canvas. These include "La Muerte de José Martí", depicting the death of the Cuban national hero and poet who led the nation's independence movement against Spain, and who died in a charge during the Battle of Dos Rios.
Perez is also known for his work in charcoal, in particular his series of portraits of jazz musicians, many of whom performed in Cuba prior to the country's fall to communism. As an untrained artist who grew up on the impoverished streets of Havana, Perez's family had no money to purchase art supplies, leaving him drawing with broken pencil nubs on scraps of paper. He left Cuba at the age of 15, after the death of his mother, and did not return for more than 40 years. A visit to Cuba in 2000, after receiving an entry visa from Fidel Castro's government, led to a particularly productive period in his work.
Perez's style is classified as primitive art, also called naive art, a category used to describe notable work produced by artists without formal schooling, such as Grandma Moses, and which captures instinctive artistic expressions without the typical conventions and uniformity of classically educated instruction.
- "Both my goal and the source of my creative enjoyment is to create work that stirs positive feelings in the observer", Perez has stated. "My ultimate hope is that these feelings create a passionate connection between the observer and the particular artwork they're viewing. If I succeed at creating this connection, it means I have successfully transferred the same feelings and passion I felt during the creative process."
Perez has a wife, Margaret, and three children. He has two grandchildren from daughter Kimberly; his other daughter, the journalist Jennifer Perez, is a former Los Angeles Times reporter and co-author of several travel books. Perez currently resides in Long Beach, California.
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