Jose Montebravo (1953-2010) from Cienfuegos, Cuba, was a self-taught painter who is known for his strong portrayals of mysterious women. Many others works depict birds, animals and the lush Cuban plant life which are painted with such strength and expression that they suggest allegorical or religious symbols as well.
Montebravo's best-known works depict female figures channeling African deities (orishas) which are widely worshipped in his native country. These portraits typically depict Santeria avatars overlaid with attributes of Spanish colonialism. His “Infanta” series show women in formal court attire with hoop skirts, wearing multi-colored beads and accompanied by symbols all of which, to the initiated, reveal the identity of particular Santeria deities.
Other paintings and works on paper depict fantasy scenes with groups of people surrounded by birds, roosters, turtles or other animals, allegorical symbols and, occasionally, numbers and text. Yet others show single or groups of roosters (“pipisigallos”), possibly another reference to santeria practices. Whatever the image, there are typically several layers of meanings embedded in a particular piece of work.
Montebravo had his first solo exhibition in the early 1980's. For decades he exhibited individually and in group shows, in Europe and the United States as well as Cuba. Today his works are collected all over the world.