Inside the Studio of Esterio Segura

It all began when I was 11, with the most important award of my career: my father’s permission for me to study art.
— Esterio Segura

The art of Esterio Segura depicts Cuban realities, hopes and dreams as tangible objects that can been seen, touched, and felt. A tour of his studio presents flying cars, epic red wings with a heart holding them together, studies of mankind and mythology and how Cuba fits into it all. His iconic planes of “Goodbye My Love” and the elegant sketches depicting Cuban cars flying exemplify Esterio’s inspiration of the constant yearning of Cubans who wish to volar, or fly. Since his start, his work has been featured in Cuba’s Fine Arts Museum, the MoMa, Bronx Museum, and Perez Art Museum of Miami, among others. His planes were featured in an exhibition in Times Square and are now permanently on display in Tampa Airport’s Terminal F. His work has evolved over the years but has continued to tie his unique Cuban roots to the world at large. This week, I sat down with Esterio to learn more about the artist’s life and work.

Can you explain a little about your story and how you landed in Havana as an internationally-acclaimed artist?

I was born in Santiago de Cuba and I was raised in Camaguey starting when I was two years old. I lost my mother when I was four, and I was an introverted kid until I began to draw and paint constantly at the age of eight. I started my art studies at age twelve and studied art for 7 years at two different schools where I had an academically and conceptually balanced education. When I was 19, I arrived in Havana and I began my studies at the Higher Institute of the Arts, (ISA).

Much of your work has to do with cars and planes – where does that inspiration come from?

It’s very simple: for a poor kid born on a small island dreaming of a big world, to own a car and travel on planes were parts of a utopia that became the reality of my life as a human being and artist. My work is a portrait of my life path, and all of the objects in my surroundings carry the risk of becoming a work of art.

You’ve traveled the world, creating art in many countries, but you’ve decided to stay in Cuba and dedícate yourself to Cuba – what does your country mean to you and your art?

Cuba is like my mother, where I always want to return, her smile makes me happy and her tears hurt me.

After an opening under President Obama, things are different in this moment between the US and Cuba.  What impact does this have on artists? And what do you hope for the future?

The effects of the international scene on Cuban art in particular start from a process which began in the late 80s and has become part of the supposed opening between the US and Cuba. With the new generation of emerging artists with access to new technology and new way of communicating with the world, there are novel ways for them to share their work globally. I hope for normality, that the exotic is no longer novel, and for the art itself to be the novelty.

After decades of existence, the Biennale with return to Havana in 2019. How will this year be different, and what should we look forward to?

The Havana Biennale has always been a box of surprises, we hope this time that all will be good surprises.

You have awards from UNEAC, the Center of Visual Arts, and you’ve done residencies in acclaimed schools around the world. What has been the most important moment of your career?

Living as an artist lasts your whole life – from the moment you decide to be an artist until the day you die. It all began when I was 11, with the most important award of my career: my father’s permission for me to study art.

Isabel Albee