Cuban-American artist Yunior Rebollar recently moved to Osage.
It’s true. Small, old Osage from rural northern Minnesota.
This summer, the Nemeth Art Center in Park Rapids was the first to showcase its art regionally. Rebollar’s exhibit, titled “Foreshadows,” is on display until July 2.
Rebollar is from a small municipality called El Cotorro in La Habana, Cuba.
They were the only black family in his neighborhood. The revolutionaries were neighbors of the counter-revolutionaries, but they spoke to each other easily and openly, recalls Rebollar.
His parents worked for the government; his father a telecommunications engineer.
“We’re talking about Cuba in the 80s. There was a lot going on, politically speaking, and so getting in and out of Cuba was a privilege that you only got by working for the government. We are talking after the revolution, so all these limitations were already in play regarding the impossibility for Cubans to travel,” he recalled.
Rebollar said he speaks English because his parents traveled to embassies around the world. “English was the easiest bridge between them and the culture they were approaching.”
His family’s openness to eclectic cultures paved the way for Rebollar’s creative expression.
On Nemeth’s Instagram account, he wrote: “It exposed me and my family to all kinds of information about what was happening in the rest of the world, which filled my imagination and gave an uncommon sense of freedom.”
During his June 11 entertainer’s reception in Nemeth, Rebollar said, “We are diplomats, as a nation.”
An island has a limited population capacity, he continued, so its inhabitants must explore and migrate.
In 2015, Rebollar was part of the US Cuba Artist Exchange, an apolitical, non-governmental, non-profit organization that helps artists from both countries connect through art.
“I was a producer and a translator for them, and I also worked as an artist, connecting people and traveling around Cuba to bring out new arts,” he said.
Rebollar received a five-year visa from the US Embassy to visit Minneapolis as part of the exchange program.
“That’s how I met my wife.”
Jovan C. Speller is an accomplished artist and photographer based in Minnesota. Her exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, titled “Nurturing, and Other Rituals of Protection,” runs through June 26.
They have two children: Silas, 4 years old, and Félix, 2 years old.
“Being a dad has filled my life with joy,” he shared on Nemeth’s Instagram. “These kids keep my senses sharp and my mind focused. They are the strongest motivation for all my work.
Between 2015 and 2020, Rebollar split his time between Cuba and Minnesota.
His solo exhibition at Nemeth is his first solo exhibition in over a decade.
And moving to Osage was the start.
“It’s been a long back and forth,” he said.
From an early age, Rebollar collected notebooks that his parents used for diaries.
“I don’t know why I got so involved in this. All I wanted was to have one to draw on,” he recalls. “I started copying other people’s drawings and stuff. I realized that I couldn’t stop doing this.
To this day, Rebollar said he is “quietly obsessed with paper and pencil games”.
Rebollar is a mixed media artist, working primarily in portrait drawing and digital art manipulation.
In his artist statement, he says his art “has been used as a tool to communicate and understand the world”, “drawing inspiration from music, film, fashion, dance and pop culture. “.
In the Nemeth exhibition, the work “focuses on bridging gaps and building bridges to both real and futuristic representations of blackness”.
“Foreshadows” relates to “our Cuban beliefs in terms of the spiritual world”, he explained.
Rebollar said Cuban women — his mother, sister, aunts and grandmother — tended to have these “visions” that were “very descriptive.”
“For some reason, this dream world would always be about a character or personality.”
They could also be very precise, so he began to appreciate them.
Rebollar said this exhibit is largely focused on female subjects because of this.
“The women in my family have always been a reservoir of love and knowledge. I am the person I am because of the women in my family,” he said. “I am also very driven by my wife. And his sister too.
His sister and mother still live in Cuba.
Through Speller, they met Aaron Spangler, Nemeth board member and artist from Park Rapids. Spangler encouraged them to consider the Park Rapids area in their search for a new home.
Asked about life in Osage, Rebollar said, “It’s great.”
“I see human beings being human beings around me. I’m like, I don’t need you to accept me all the time,” he said.
Rebollar wants northern Minnesota to see his images of Blackness.
The vibrant colors of her family exhibit were inspired by her children’s toys.
“It’s not in Cuba. I can’t see that in Cuba. Nobody does that. Nobody celebrates darkness like that,” he said.