OCTOBER 17 THRU NOVEMBER 28 — Yeelen Gallery

Yeelen Gallery, an Arts incubator dedicated to the promotion and expression of contemporary urban culture, presents TransCuba: a solo exhibition by Mariette Pathy Allen. For more than 30 years, New York based photographer Allen has been documenting transgender culture worldwide, and has for her show at Yeelen captured the transgender community of Cuba through 80 vibrant color photographs. Artist opening reception  takes place October 17 at 7PM.

Starting in the early ’90s, my work focused on female-to-male as well as male-to-female people who live full-time in the gender in which they identify. I photographed the evolution of political activism, young gender variant people, and made portraits of individuals as their life circumstances changed.

Mariette Pathy Allen

“We’re thrilled about this compelling body of work by Mariette Pathy Allen in TransCuba – both in our aim to foster relationships with the surrounding neighborhood, and in presenting content that expresses the diversity of our city,” said Karla Ferguson, gallery owner and director. Yeelen is committed to the artistic growth from the inside outward, pioneering exhibitions that enlighten the mind and foster an understanding of local culture and beyond.”

Allen’s work focuses on the details of the everyday lives of her transgender subjects, engaging with family and friends and the community at large in Cuba; and revealing the growing visibility and acceptance in a country whose government is transitioning into a more “relaxed” model of communism under Raúl Castro’s presidency. The central TransCuba protagonists are Amanda, Nomi and Malu, three remarkable people with whom Allen formed close bonds over the course of visits she made to Cuba in 2012 and 2013. Allen gained full access to photograph them and their friends in the privacy of their homes, as well as outside at restaurants and clubs, at the beach, on the streets of Havana, at performances, and at special events. Strong, smart, active, and optimistic, the transgender people Allen depicts in TransCuba savor their new freedom to be able to be themselves publicly, while continuing to overcome challenges, such as health issues, and lack of steady work and money.

Among Allen’s images, viewers are privy to a tender moment with Nomi with her boyfriend Miguel; Malu, with her parents and sister, in front of their home; a sweeping portrait of Amanda by the river against the Havana skyline; Yanet at home sitting proudly beside her artwork; Charito feeding a oneweek-old piglet; Sissi styling her niece’s hair who holds a sleeping child in her arms; and a view of the rooftops of Havana from Natalie’s window. The photographs, and candid supporting interviews, provide an intimate and multi-layered portrait of Cuba and this special community of people that is very different from the stereotypical, one-dimensional depiction of transgender individuals we are so often accustomed to seeing in photographs and in films.

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