When To­bac­co turns in­to an Art­work

MIL­TON BER­NAL IS A SIM­PLE MAN WHO, ALT­HOUGH HIS ART IS EMPIRICAL, FOCUSED ON DEVOTING HIMSELF TO THE PASSION THAT MARKED HIS LI­FE FOREVER. HE IS KNOWN AS “THE TO­BAC­CO PAINTER”

Excelencias Turísticas del caribe y las Américas - - En­tre­vis­ta / Interview -

It is no se­cret he is not known in the art uni­ver­se as he is in the realm of to­bac­co. He lo­ves to say, always bea­ming a smi­le, that he is one of the best pain­ters among to­bac­co gro­wers. “The­re is no po­li­tics, no re­li­gion or so­cial clas­ses in this uni­ver­se; you can’t re­sist the tem­pta­tion to talk about the best to­bac­co in the world. And that’s what: the per­fect ex­cu­se to gat­her peo­ple — as its pur­po­se is to brin­ging together and bin­ding peo­ple. The mo­re I know about it, the mo­re fas­ci­na­ted and enamo­red I feel. The mo­re I paint, the mo­re I reali­ze its great­ness, rich­ness, history, and cul­tu­ral va­lue.”

The­se are the words with which Mil­ton Ber­nal (1960- ) des­cri­bes the es­sen­ce of the work that has marked his li­fe and has gi­ven him the tools to be known as “The To­bac­co Painter.” With his cha­rac­te­ris­tic sim­pli­city, he wel­co­med Ex­ce­len­cias in his stu­dio ga­llery — a warm, very Cuban spa­ce — to talk about the unu­sual job he does: oil pain­ting with to­bac­co leaves em­bed­ded in hand­ma­de pa­per.

He gra­dua­ted from the mid-le­vel tech­ni­cian de­gree in In­dus­trial De­sign and owns a Ba­che­lor’s De­gree in Jour­na­lism — spe­cia­li­zed in So­cial Com­mu­ni­ca­tion — at the Uni­ver­sity of Ha­va­na; in Mar­ke­ting, and Bu­si­ness Ma­na­ge­ment at the Su­pe­rior School of Mar­ke­ting Stu­dies (ESEM), in Spain. He is mem­ber of the Cen­ter for the De­ve­lop­ment of Vi­sual Arts, the Cuban As­so­cia­tion of Ar­tists and Crafts­men, the In­ter­na­tio­nal Federation of Plas­tic Ar­tists (Bar­ce­lo­na, Spain), and the Artli­ve In­ter­na­tio­nal, in Fran­ce. Alt­hough he is an ex­pe­rien­ced pro­fes­sio­nal in the com­mu­ni­ca­tion world, he boasts an empirical trai­ning in arts. He is a self-edu­ca­ted painter who dis­co­ve­red, ran­domly, im­pres­si­ve skills for pain­ting and a na­tu­ral ta­lent that re­sul­ted in a who­le­so­me sa­tis­fac­tion.

“In 2000, I was not a painter yet. I was in Fran­ce and I vi­si­ted a photo ex­hi­bi­tion by Joaquin Blez (1886-1974, Cuban pho­to­grap­her spe­cia­li­zed in Por­trait Stu­dio who de­vo­ted part of his work to cap­tu­re the beauty of fe­ma­le nu­de from his ca­me­ra) in Mou­lin Rou­ge. While wat­ching in awe that work of art, I told my­self: If I were a painter, I would lo­ve to paint tho­se nu­des. Before re­tur­ning to Ha­va­na, I bought a poster with the image of Cha­plin and the Chi­cue­lo. I always wan­ted to ha­ve it. One day, when I hung it on the wall, I heard the call to the We­mi­le­re Fes­ti­val. Alt­hough I am not a re­li­gious man, the Afro-Cuban in­fluen­ce tou­ches me per­so­nally as I was born in Gua­na­ba­coa. Thus, I de­ci­ded to paint Chi­chue­lo, but I trans­for­med him in­to Eleg­gua. I won the Fes­ti­val with this pain­ting in 2001 and the award was a di­plo­ma ma­de on hand­ma­de pa­per. It ins­pi­red me and I be­gan pain­ting nu­des on that ma­te­rial,” Mil­ton re­ca­lled, while taking us through tho­se ca­sual events that led him to arts, and then to­bac­co as the essential ele­ment of his work.

Af­ter­wards, luck pla­yed its usual old trick again and this ti­me, when he was do

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