Exhibition features compelling images of Cuba, Southeast Asia

‘La Habana’ by Kristi Foster

By Sarah Weinman

The exhibition “Cuba and Southeast Asia: A Photographic Journey” at the Gallery at University City Public Library combines art and history. Photographers Kristi Foster (Cuba) and Deborah Weinstein (Southeast Asia) draw parallels between their subjects and illustrate them with intense images.

The United States attempted to stop the rise of Communism in Cuba and Southeast Asia partly by limiting trade and access for Americans. Now, relations between Cuba and the U.S. are thawing, and relations between Southeast Asian countries and the U.S. are warming even more.

Foster noted, “As the hand of friendship from the U.S. extends further, the Cuban people are cautious but hopeful. … The common plea seems to be for America to respect the people’s desire to retain the retro charm and intrigue that makes Cuba unique.” 

Her digital photographs explode with color and depict scenes of everyday life on the island.

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The street scene in “La Habana”, 16” x 20”, is bustling: cyclists ride in the street beyond two turquoise 1950s American classic cars in the foreground. In the background, laundry hangs on five of the eight visible balconies on a yellow building. The building is discolored and the paint is peeling in spots. This image is quintessential Cuba for many Americans: classic cars, crumbling architecture, and people getting by as best they can.

Foster’s bright, sharp images contrast nicely with Weinstein’s photographs, which are low in saturation.

In Southeast Asia, Weinstein noted, “Buddhist culture has shaped the people’s responses towards the U.S. and Americans. Warm and friendly towards American tourists, Asians seem to put the past behind them.”

The faces of people in her portraits express kindness and resilience. Their expressions also evoke hardships that they still confront in these countries.

She photographed “English Teacher”, 17” x 22”, in Luang Prabang, Laos. The Asian teacher wears an orange robe and almost smiles for the camera. He stands in a garden or courtyard in front of a white building with a brown roof. The teacher’s calm expression seems to be one of acceptance and patience. 

Weinstein’s black-and-white digital print “Angkor Wat Temple”, 17” x 22”, taken in Siem Reap, Cambodia, depicts a representation of Cambodia itself. Weinstein stood across a lake and looked up at the iconic temple for this shot. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. It was built as a Hindu temple, and in the 12th century was converted into a Buddhist temple. Angkor Wat is so important that it has become synonymous with the country of Cambodia.

“Cuba and Southeast Asia: A Photographic Journey” is on view through December 29. The gallery is located at 6701 Delmar Blvd. at Kingsland. Library hours are Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.; Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; and Sunday 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. For more information, call 314-727-3150 or visit www. http://ucitylibrary.org/gallery. 

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