One Tank Trip: 'Made in Cuba' exhibit at GoggleWorks


What's in front of you is worth another look, a closer look, to see the found objects that are hidden. They are made into art like a hidden picture puzzle in real life. Each piece tells the story of real life, real hardships, real struggles. They help describe the way things are in Cuba.

"'Made in Cuba' is about Cuban people, Cuban style life," explained artist Julio Cepeda.

The artist himself was made in Cuba. Cepeda lives in a town, called Trinadad, and three years ago, his work caught the eye of an American tourist.

"We saw Julio's work in a gallery and loved it right away," said fellow artist and tourist Martha Ressler. "We made a connection with it on a visceral level. We loved the humor. We loved the use of found objects, and we could imagine his work here at the GoggleWorks. We decided then and there to make a project to bring him here for an exhibition to help his career and to make that connection between Cuba and the people of Reading."

That was in 2015. The U.S. Embassy had just reopened and Berks-based Ressler and her husband, Jay, put their plan into action.

During that time, the political landscape changed, and Martha said what she thought would be a simple process was instead long and arduous. It took one year just to find the right lawyer. Money was lost and stolen. The process took three years.

"A lot of effort," she recalled. "Thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars, and many, many people. So many people helped in so many ways, in large and small. Through their time and their treasure, they helped because they believed in him and in his art without knowing him."

Cepeda and his art are now at the GoggleWorks in Reading. The exhibit will be up through October 13.

He uses found objects because paint and materials are expensive in Cuba. The only way for him to make art is to use what he finds.

There are found objects hidden in plain sight, and then there are objects that are truly hidden, behind secret doors. He calls them windows.

"I have many secrets in my work that people discover and say, 'Wow.' You know," he said.

The pieces are commentaries on Cuban life, politics, the black market and more. You'll notice there are always wires running through them.

"Many wires in many pieces, many connections, connections because, in Cuba, you need connections, you know," Cepeda added.

They are connections to live. One portrait is of a neighbor connected to those around him, who got to the doctor when he was sick, only because others made it happen.

It's similar, in a way, to how Cepeda ended up in Berks County, connected to a new community looking to share what they knew he had to offer.