Mirta Cerra is one of the best kept secrets in Cuban art. An artist with a long artistic trajectory and a considerable body of work, ranging from social realism to abstraction, she is yet to receive her fair share of recognition. Cerra graduated from the art academy of San Alejandro in 1934 and thereafter received a scholarship to study at the Art Students League in New York, where she took up graphics and sculpture. After traveling in Europe and experimenting with various media, she returned to Cuba and settled for painting, having her first one person show in 1943 at Havana's Lyceum. During her long career she participated in numerous national and international collective shows, winning many awards. She also had a number of solo exhibitions, the most important of which was a retrospective of over one hundred paintings at Cuba's National Museum in 1979.
Acompañamiento is a fine example of Cerra's 1940s production, when she developed a very personal version of social realism. Inspired to some extent by the Mexican muralist movement, she used monumental, sculpture-like forms and earth tones to recreate childhood memories of peasants and their way of life. Painted with the skill of an old master, she paid homage in this work to the traditional Cuban figure of the campesino, which she represented as dignified, somber, and earthy. Cerra brought to the representation of the peasant, a popular subject in Cuban art of the 1930s and to some degree the 1940s, a strong sense of gravity and venerability that was new and far from the stereotypical felicitous depiction of the subject.
Juan A. Martinez, Ph.D.
Miami, March 1997