Eastern University, Friends of Warner Memorial Library, and Pennsylvania Trust are hosting a show of local artist George Rothacker’s Havana paintings to raise support towards the David R. Black Academic Enrichment Fund. The show takes place November 11, 6pm-9pm at Bolingbrook Mansion. In the summer of 2010, local artist George Rothacker visited Havana, Cuba to prepare for a series of paintings on this iconic city. The trip resulted in over 30 painting to be displayed at the Bolingbrook show. To learn more about the show, visit http://www.havana-59.blogspot.com/.
For this week’s blog post, I interviewed George on his latest series of painting and his trip to Cuba.
What drew you to paint scenes from Havana?
After a disastrous show in 2009 (after the market tanked), I decided I needed a project….something I wanted to paint….something different and exciting. My stepson gave me a book called “The Nostalgia of Havana” and it reminded me of what I had heard on the peripheral while a child growing up. I also knew that Cuba had an abundance of two things I loved…beautiful old crumbling buildings and old American cars.
Artistically, how did you prepare for your trip?
I knew I would be painting “people”, so I painted a triptych of the outfield and crowd at a Phillies game. The texture created from painting hundreds of people in the stands…and also the closeups of the players.
What impressed upon you the most when you reflect about your time in Havana?
Beyond the beauty, there was a bit of mystery surrounding our visit. But there were also beautiful people who were nice. Even though the city had few lights, we never felt endangered. The other thing I was impressed with was the cigar factory. We took a tour and it was amazing. We walked up flights of broken steps where more than 200 people were rolling cigars, listening to music and smoking cigarettes. The place was a tinder box…..but it had been this way for more than a century.
Was there any particular element about the city and its atmosphere that surprised you? Disappointed you?
Nothing was a disappointment. The food wasn’t the best, but the music was great and the breezes wonderful. I guess what surprised me most was how run down most of the city was…..broken railings, pieces just falling from buildings, rusted through grates in the street you could fall through.
Which painting is your favorite?
Either the “Balcony” or “Street Art in Havana” though these sometimes change for me to others like the “Lafayette Restaurant and Bar” (as pictured above). I am an American painting Havana, and Havana should be painted by the people who live there. In interpreting the street art, I got to partner with the local artists on my painting of a section of art I captured sideways with my camera. I found it late in the project, and added a man in the painting I found in another photo. I put the names of the artists in the painting along with my own. It kind of gave me sanction to do the series.
Do you have an ideas for what your next series of paintings will be?
I have one idea and my wife has another. I recently started a painting of the Dreamland Circus Side Show that was in New York in the 1930s. It’s bizarre…but fascinating. I really would like to paint more of New York in this period. Though it was the Depression, New York had a real romance to it at that time. Art Deco was the rage, the music of Cole Porter, Gershwin and Rogers and Hart was heard everywhere…..and there glamor but also a sad and seedy side to it. I like that.
My wife, Barbara, has ventured into Penn with some of people from the alumni and the Museum, and she and they think it might be interesting for me to paint the Penn campus. I don’t know yet…..the Rainbow Room is calling me.
Thank you to George for taking the time to answer my questions! I am very much looking forward to attending the show’s grand opening on November 11th! To read more about George and his work, check out his homepage at http://www.georgerothacker.com/index.html. Currently, George’s beautiful paintings of Eastern’s campus are on display in Warner Library on the Main Level.