Inside Havana's Tropicana Cabaret
Katy Parks Wilson
ABOUT THE EXHIBIT
Today Cuba is on everyone’s minds. The island nation just 90 miles off our coast is shaking off the bleak mantle of communism and looks poised to become a capitalists’ rum- soaked, tropical playground once again. Light up your cigars!! For the grand troupe of dancers, singers, musicians, choreographers, stage managers, lighting designers, costume- makers and everyone who have kept the fabulous Tropicana Cabaret in the heart of Havana going in the face of a revolution, the party has never stopped. With high-stakes gambling, Mafia control and a general tolerance of official corruption forbidden, the once decadent jet-set heaven of a Club has had to rely on sheer dazzle to keep its doors open.
When I visited Cuba with my camera in 2013, I was looking for signs of a society on the verge of transformation. My fascination with a place hovering between two states of being allowed
￼me to find significance and beauty in the every day jumble of vehicles, humans, construction and gerry-rigged machinery. When I had the chance of a night at the Tropicana, I felt going would be a departure from my theme. But I couldn’t help myself... I went anyway!
Today’s Tropicana show belies all attempts to render it irrelevant. The quintessentially Cuban show harkens back to its heyday when the audience might have included Marlon Brando, Ernest Hemingway or Rita Hayworth and performers might include Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole, yet the authenticity of those tight, oiled bodies gyrating close enough to feel breath on skin is... extremely present. Sex oozes unabashedly... and no t-shirts are being sold. These people dance for dancing. And I was witness.
In December, I will be traveling back to Havana to visit the Tropicana again and I am most curious to see how it has and hasn’t changed since the loosening of diplomatic restrictions between the US and Cuba. My photographs will continue to tell the tale.
This exhibition celebrates a Cuba beyond economic and political structures, a Cuba of the people: energized by music, color and their unique spirit blended from many influences.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Katy Parks Wilson is a Los Angeles-based fine art photographer whose work encompasses abstracts, graffiti, city and landscapes, still lifes, architecture, and what she calls stolen moments. A world traveler, teacher and journalist for more than 30 years, Parks Wilson is a natural storyteller employing photography to document a moment, evoke a sense of place, or simply take a closer look. In her art classes, she teaches her young students to do the same. Equally comfortable with straight digital capture and manipulted images, Katy captures variations of color, texture and light, celebrating an object’s natural beauty, or exploring the line between detail and abstraction.
Whether in Cuba, Detroit or in the Soviet Union (back in the day) Katy has an eye for unintentional compositions, especially those created by urban decay, the weedy, abandoned corners of abandoned buildings, the patterns found left by rust, arson and neglect. Rather than manipulating the subject, she plays with the facility of the camera pushing in for a close-up, working with the light, considering different angles or experimenting with processing options to complete the final image. The result:
Timeless yet unconventional images that command attention. Parks Wilson has been commissioned by hotels, television and film production companies and private collectors to create custom images.
ABOUT THE GALLERY
The Perfect Exposure Gallery is the recognized venue in Southern California to display the work of award winning and accomplished photojournalists as well as works of photographers that regard artistry and craftsmanship as a standard of excellence. The mission of the Perfect Exposure Gallery is to present exhibits free of charge to the general public with the following goals to exemplify the rich variety and impact of photography, freedom of expression, a forum for the aesthetic, the contemptible and the sublime.
Exhibition dates: Thursday 28, January 2016 to Saturday 5, March 2016