More artwork by Enrique Flores-Galbis
About the Artist
Enrique Flores-Galbis is a landscape and portrait painter. Born in Havana, Cuba, he left in 1961 with Operation Pedro Pan, arriving alone in South Florida at the age of 9. Also a novelist, his award-winning book 90 Miles to Havana was based on the events that led to his departure and the life he encountered in the U.S.
A portrait and landscape painter, his work can be found in museum, corporate, university, and private collections throughout the country. His paintings have been accepted into the top annual national juried exhibitions and has been exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions.
“This ongoing series of paintings began before the first return to my birthplace, my magnetic center, the island of Cuba. Painted from memories, these images were tinged by the longings and emotions that this landscape evokes in the heart of an exile.”
I was born in Havana in 1952, the year a military coup upended the presidential elections and kicked off the second Cuban Revolution. The violence and brutality churning just out of sight at very edges of my vision, contrasted with the Dictators smiling face on billboards framed by impossibly blue skies created a disconnect, a cruel contradiction felt but not understood by the boy who just wanted to eat mangoes and play baseball. Then when the revolution came rattling down our street to knock on our door, our parents decided that my brothers and I would be safer in Miami, even though they had no clear idea what actually awaited us there.
At the airport, my father, very serious but still managing to smile, handed us each a box of good Cuban cigars while my mother, her face quivering like a rain drop that’s about to burst, bravely strained to hold it all back. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I began to understand the power of the emotions behind all that water that my mother was holding back that day. In the waiting room I tried to act cool like my two older brothers, but when they opened the door to the runway the fumes and noise of the airplane engines came roaring into the waiting room like an angry animal and my cool started to melt.
As I ran across the hot tarmac trying to catch up, my legs went numb, my feet left the ground, and then I was floating behind my brothers like a bobbing balloon. I floated up the stairs to my seat, floated to Miami, past the man who took my box of cigars and then gave me ten dollars.
I floated into Pedro Pan’s camp, to my uncle’s house, and then well into the difficult teenage years. In time I came to realize that floating was my way of visualizing, imagining the new from memory and desire, my way of coping with a difficult situation, and that I wasn’t the only one who did it. That is when my feet finally touched down, I was grounded at last, but I never forgot about floating.
Naturally, I decided that I needed to find a way to materialize the images from my big floating imagination and then project them out to the real world. I learned about painting at New York University and Parsons School of Design graduate school and then I learned how to paint at the Art Students League of New York. Out of a deep need to understand the puzzle of blue skies, the sweet taste of mangoes and violence, I wrote two Award winning YA Novels, Raining Sardines and 90 Miles to Havana.
For thirty years I have been painting, and teaching, children and adults, how to visualize, and then push their ideas into the light of day— share their hearts. Currently I’m visiting schools and talking about the books and Cuban history as well as painting murals for visiting artists programs in the City of New York. I still paint portraits and lecture at art schools and Museums. My paintings can be found in several academic and corporate collections including : Harvard University, New York University, Cintas Foundation, Travelers Insurance, as well as many homes.