About Artist

The Graceful Flight of the Woman-Bird

Zaida del Río - Dibjuo en tinta

“I am the vision that arrives at dawn

with a bunch of transparent lilies


I am a kaleidoscope in the mist of a vault

I am the woman who loves and expects nothing.”

Zaida del Río  (“The Woman of Winter”)

At the end of the 1970s a body of work emerged in the Cuban art scene that rapidly filled a unique space. The drawings, engravings, installations, and paintings by Zaida del Río (* 1954, Guadalupe, Las Villas) took their place at the top of the art production that emerged as a consequence of the teaching and personal talent of a group of artists that was soon recognized as the generation of the seventies. Summarizing it in this way does not quite express the depth of that work, its distinctiveness, the profound beauty of its lines, the cultured lyricism of a genuine Cuban-rooted tradition, articulated with universal religions and cultures; an essentially unique and sincere feminine work.

Zaida del Río - Dibjuo en tinta

Although she has not entirely based her work on color, this artist’s production, mainly based on the line of her drawing, is traversed from beginning to end by a use of the range of colors that identifies her immediately with the atmosphere and luminosity of her native Caribbean. Much of the insular style of these latitudes marks her pieces, which is appreciated not only in the variegation or saturation of the blank space, but in the profusion of symbols that fill each image. Zaida del Río’s works are like dioramas of cultural signs, of intertwining of religions (syncretism); fountains of symbols in which mystic, eroticist, and feminine impregnate her paintings.

Poet of delicate verses, the author gives excellent titles to her paintings, in which she frequently includes phrases as if to give testimony that her work is born of the communion of both languages; that of painting and the one of words, signs, and letters in perfect synthesis. In the decade of the 1990s a new symbol appeared in her work, in which she had already broached the landscape themes of the bucolic Cuban countryside and the reference to animals. I refer to the image of the woman with bird head, an allegory of herself; a key figure in which Zaida transforms into a flying being in her imagination, as if looking beyond reality. The woman-bird is the symbol par excellence of Zaida’s work; it is she herself and the fantasy of the impossible; it is her poetic in a natural and primitive state. It means still much more, its symbolical capacity even excels another of her artistic fetishes that is featured in many of her paintings: the peacock; since this bird, emblem of India and constituent part of several Afro-Cuban rites, never achieves the strong referential weight of the woman-bird. This is the essence of her visual poetry.

Zaida del Río - Dibjuo en tinta

That ability to fly present in her discourse is also an allegory to memory and time, since the fluency of her lyricism is another of the signs that characterize her; just like the sequential nature of the verses of a poem, or the stills of a film, or like the waters of a river or the imagination of a feverish being (herself) at the moment of creating her symbols. Time flows in her canvases and cardboards; time that goes by linearly.

The poet Miguel Barnet appropriately wrote these words: “No one can avoid the magic power of these figures. Not even those who may never know how to interpret them. Her paintings are alive and move among themselves with a rhythm similar to the one ruling the stars and nature.” At the same time I agree with the judgment of another poet (this one also an art critic), Roberto Méndez, when he says that the work in question is unclassifiable; such is the plurality of its sources, cultural, and thematic references as well as the diversity of signs that nourishes it. Méndez states, and I repeat, that it is “an open work in constant change.”

Sensuality and love form another central theme in her discourse. It is the naked bodies of men and women that embody her suggested eroticism. They represent a nudity of classic memories, specifically Hellenic, in which slender, well-formed bodies offer themselves in her paintings to the viewer as if they were surrendering to an uninhibited voluptuousness. It is natural for an artist who has admitted that she feels reality with her entire body to recognize the body as a metaphor of the universe at the time of creation. In this context eroticism is another continuation of the telluric and libidinous powers of the body, with its deep sexual implications as central theme of the art. Zaida del Río knows about those potentialities because she is capable of feeling them in her own body and has presented them freely in her paintings.

Zaida del Río - Dibjuo en tinta

The active and passive bibliography on this work increases gradually due to the attention of the specialized critics and other writers who have noticed her merit. On the other hand, her paintings are part of important international collections and have a prominent place in the permanent halls of the National Museum of Fine Arts. Each new exhibition of hers, and they are very numerous since the first one back in 1976, adds to her legacy in Cuban visual arts.

Winged deities, rainbows, flowers, peacocks, precious stones, Tibetan motifs and tobacco leaves abound in this showcase, crafted like fine jewelry by the trained hand of a goldsmith in full maturity. The glistening painting reflects the personality of the artist and how she sees the world; a discourse that moves between fantasy and a melody to which the images dance. Zaida del Río surprises us because she painted with surprise. Passion and surprise, surprise in the childish look, passion of the adult woman in love with life.

The woman-bird, daughter of Ochun, worshipper of Shiva and Krishna, faithful to her understanding of the astral and spiritual nature of the human being and to her polarities of energy and information of the cosmos; descending equally from the four signs: earth, wind, sea and fire; exquisite draftsman and consummate colorist, sensitive woman of unbridled imagination, returns again.

Interview with Artist

Catalog & Text Translations

Virtual Reality Exhibition
Computers | Phones and Pads


Birthplace: Guadalupe, Las Villas, Cuba, 1954

Professions: Painter, Illustrator, Printmaker, Ceramic Artist, Poet, and Performance Artist.

- Escuela Nacional de Arte (ENA), 1971-1974, Havana, Cuba
- Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA), 1982-1987, Havana, Cuba
- Ecole de Beaux Arts, 1988-1989, Paris, France

Current Residence: Havana, Cuba

- National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC)
- International Association of Plastic Artists (AIAP)

- Participant in all editions of the Havana Biennial since its inception in 1984
- Works are part of the collection at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes en Cuba and numerous other state and private collections both in Cuba and internationally

Solo Exhibitions:
- A comprehensive list spanning from 1976 to 2016, exhibiting in countries like Cuba, Peru, Japan, Spain, USA, Costa Rica, Ecuador, India, Finland, Italy, Mexico, France, and others. Notable exhibitions include "Ellas subieron al podio" (2016, Havana, Cuba), "Pasos y evocaciones" (2014, Lima, Peru), and "Marinas" (2013, Havana, Cuba).

Awards and Recognitions:
- Includes prestigious awards such as the "Crisol" Prize by Coral Negro (2004, Havana, Cuba), Painting Prize at the Tenri Biennial, Japan (1997), and Gold Medal in Painting at the Cairo Biennial, Egypt (1993).

- Illustrated various magazines, books, and poems, including "País Mágico. Hecho a mano" (2009), "Cielo Imaginario" (2008), and works by notable authors like Nicolás Guillén and Alejo Carpentier.

- Participated in international biennales including Tenri (Japan), Caribbean (Santo Domingo), Cairo (Egypt), São Paulo (Brazil), Cuenca (Ecuador), and San Juan (Puertorico).

- Featured in art videos by several directors, including Roberto Chile and Wendy Guerra, with awards for her contributions to video art.

CD Cover Illustrations:
- Illustrated CD covers for various artists and genres, encompassing a wide range of musical styles and themes.

Contributions to the National Ballet of Cuba:
- Honored for her involvement in major cultural events and painted the stage curtain for the ballet "Umbral" by Alicia Alonso (2000).

Mural Paintings:
- Created several large-scale mural paintings in Cuba and the USA, including "Mujeres Pájaros" (2012, Miami, USA) and "La vida que florece" (2007, Havana, Cuba).


Solo Exhibitions

Atravesando mundos, ArteMorfosis Cuban Art Gallery, Zürich, Switzerland


Ellas subieron al podio. , Hotel Habana Libre, Havana, Cuba


Mujeres con alas. , Barrio Workshop, Miami, USA

La danza cósmica de Shiva. Selección., Internationale Buchmesse auf der Festung Morro- Cabaña, Saal Nicolás Guillén, Havana, Cuba

Cuban Fine Arts Gallery, New York, USA; Rituales. , Hernández Art Gallery, Milan, Italy


Pasos y evocaciones. , Kunstmuseum des Kulturzentrums von San Marcos, Lima, Peru

Amor de ciudad grande. Serie Versos libres de José Martí. , Galerie

El Reino de Este Mundo, Nationalbibliothek „José Martí“, Havana, Cuba


Marinas. , Galerie Orígenes, Havana, Cuba

Marinas. , Galerie UNEAC , Matanzas, Cuba


Mis meditaciones en el budismo. Camino del diamante. Galerie Collage Habana, Havana Cuba


Le Premier Rendez-Vous. , Farmacia Triolet, Pharmazeutisches Museum, Matanzas, Cuba

Obras recientes. , UNEAC (Nationaler Künstler- und Schriftstellerverband Cubas), Matanzas, Cuba


La danza cósmica de Shiva. , Kulturhaus ALBA, Havana Cuba

Arte cubano. , Brande Arts Oy, Finnland


Mundos indefinidos.,Galerie Enmarcarte, Costa Rica

El gran hipnotizador. , Stadtmuseum, Havana, Cuba

Danza de la tierra. , Lalit Kala Akademi, Neu Delhi, India

El jardín de la virgen. , Galerie Arte Boulevard, Cienfuegos, Cuba


Sed de vuelo.,Museum für Moderne Kunst von Cuenca,Ecuador

Samsara. Serie tatuajes. , Haus der Kunst am Malecón, Havana, Cuba


Reinas de corazones.,National Museum de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba


Habana 1791.,Galerie Museum der Generalgouverneure, Havana, Cuba


Casas de curación.,Galerie La Acacia, Havana, Cuba

Seres efímeros. Coreografía. Story Rhy Nehart Parade, The Circle, Cleveland, Ohio, USA


Rituales: fotografías. , Studiogalerie, Oficios Nr. 6, Habana Vieja, Cuba


Obras en papel. , Galerie Aquelarre, San Pedro de Alcántara, Málaga, Spain


Corazón de cristal. , Galerie La Acacia, Havana, Cuba

La pasión árabe. , Galerie Unión Árabe de Cuba, Havana, Cuba

La tierra hechizada. , Universität von Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain

Dibujos y pinturas. , Galerie Promo-Arte, Tokio, Japan

Pinturas. , Contemporary Space, Sapporo-Hokkaido, Japan

Dibujos y pinturas. , Galerie Shimizu-Shizuoka, Japan


Y por qué yo. , Studio galerie Los Oficios, Havana, Cuba


Colección de primavera. (, Hotel Inglaterra, Havana, Cuba


Jornada de la Cultura Cubana. , Persönliche Erfahrung in Martinique


Dibujos. (Zeichnungen), Galerie Vía Larga, Florenz, Italy


Refranes de registro. , Galerie Evasión, São Paulo, Brasilien

En luna creciente. , Galerie La Acacia, Havana, Cuba


Sueños de Barcelona en la muerte de Dalí. , Galerie G, Barcelona, Spain

Sobre el amor. , Chanteaux Lormont, Bourdeaux, Frankreich

Alimentando la piel. , Galerie Hermanos, Paris, Frankreich

La señal del ángel. , Internationales Grafikzentrum, Rom, Italy

Obras recientes. , Ninart Galerie, México D.F.

Otra rama al fuego. , Festung Castillo de la Real Fuerza, Havana, Cuba


Corazonadas., Zentrum Wifredo Lam, Havana, Cuba


Oraciones populares. , Palast der Generalgouverneure, Havana, Cuba


Conversaciones. , Galerie Habana, Havana, Cuba


Grabados y dibujos. , Galerie Angora, Tabasco, Mexico 35

Enfermedad de caballos. , Galerie Habana, Havana, Cuba


Apuntes de nuestro campo. , National Museum de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba


Zaida del Río. Grabados. , Galerie L, Havana, Cuba

Narraciones. (Erzählungen), National Museum für Schöne Künste, Havana, Cuba

Prizes and Mentions

Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas 2023


Painting Prize, Nicomedes García Gomez Foundation, Segovia, Spain


Prize at the WSP Wine Competition, Havana, Cuba


Prize at the WSP Wine Competition, Havana, Cuba

Painting Prize, Tenri Biennial, Japan


Gold Medal, Painting Prize, Cairo Biennial, Egypt


Recognition in Lithography, La Joven Estampa, Havana, Cuba

Critics' Prize, Engraving Meeting, Havana, Cuba

Recognition, UNEAC (National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba) Hall, Havana, Cuba


Lithography Prize, National Engraving Meeting, Havana, Cuba

Prize for Children's Book Illustration, Havana, Cuba


First Recognition in Drawing, National Hall of Fine Arts, UNEAC, Havana, Cuba


Drawing Prize, National Playa Girón Hall, Havana, Cuba


First Recognition in Printmaking, National Hall of Fine Arts, UNEAC, Havana, Cuba


Drawing Prize, National Hall of Fine Arts, UNEAC, Havana, Cuba


Recognition, Printmaking Hall, Havana, Cuba


2nd Prize in Printmaking, National Hall for Professors and Teachers of Fine Arts, Havana, Cuba