Dreamland Via Cuba

Artists Virginia Fleck and Sandra Ceballos found common ground when Gallery 106 sent Fleck to Cuba

<i>The Dream Dreamed Me</i> by Virginia Fleck
The Dream Dreamed Me by Virginia Fleck

A goat's head is lodged in a recessed frame; it gazes at a black horn hovering in the corner of the shallow box. But the animal has its own horn of sorts: an avocado wedge that sprouts from its head. Meanwhile, in a white-walled room, a huge balloonlike form burgeons, covered with motley yet vaguely familiar patterns. Upon closer inspection, you notice that it's made completely of those ubiquitous plastic supermarket bags; "Go home a hero!" it demands, billowing.

<i>Moon and I</i>  by Sandra Ceballos
Moon and I by Sandra Ceballos

Feel like you've entered the realm of Morpheus? That's because dreams are the theme for the installations by Virginia Fleck and Sandra Ceballos in Gallery 106's new show, "Dreaming My Dreams." Nestled in Flatbed World Headquarters, Gallery 106 has garnered kudos for bringing the work of Cuban artists to Austin: two Austin Critics Table awards in the past two years, and a "Ten Best of 2001" notice from the Austin American-Statesman.

The Cuban connection arises from Gallery 106's close association with MedAid, a nonprofit organization dedicated to delivering much-needed medical supplies to Cuba; some proceeds of the gallery's sales are donated to this cause, and part of the gallery's mission is to foster a cultural exchange between Cuba and Austin. But although a number of Cuban artists have been brought to our fair city, the gallery had never before sent an Austin-based artist to Cuba -- until "Dreaming My Dreams." Says Gallery Director Fran Magee, "I thought I needed to bring an Austin artist to Cuba and really make this a cultural exchange."

Fleck and Ceballos were chosen for the exchange by Tonel (Antonio E. Fernández), a visiting artist and scholar at Stanford University and a Cuban art critic who was familiar with the work of both women. Fleck first went to Cuba to deliver medicines for MedAid last March; while there, she was introduced to Ceballos. The two found the theme of dreams recurred in both of their bodies of work, and, even though neither spoke the other's language, Fleck and Ceballos corresponded via e-mail (using an Internet translating service) to develop their collaborative project. On Dec. 18, the show opened in Havana at Ceballos' gallery, which is also her home; this week, it opens at Gallery 106.

What do the artists say about their work? Fleck describes the thousands of plastic bags she uses in her sculpture as having "a collective voice; they are hawking the American dream, promising success through consumerism. It strikes me," she says, "that this 'dream' has dreamed me." When speaking of her jarring scenes, Ceballos says, "These works unveil my silence; they are speeches without applause. They are documents, stories, signs -- works that dissolve feelings under a fetishist finery. It is a chronicle of my passage through life." Sound interesting? Go to Gallery 106; Morpheus will be waiting. end story

"Dreaming My Dreams" is on view Feb. 22-March 2 at Gallery 106, 2832 E. MLK. Call 472-1219 or visit www.medaid.org/art/cuba_art.htm.

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