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VISUAL ARTS ‌ Havana Nights

Two new shows benefit from a Cuban twist

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There's something about Cuba — the heady, eclectic mix of chrome and cabanas, the stubborn adherence to a political vision, the ever-present possibility of an illicit tryst or a brush with danger. That's nothing you won't find in Goose Creek on a Friday night, but Cuba's a lot more photogenic.

That allure's apparent in a new show at RLS Upstairs, Robert Lange's second-story gallery. Guest-curated by Rebekah Jacob, it features the work of Cuban photographers Alberto Korda and Roberto Salas, best known for their portraits of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. Korda's Che shot "Guerilla Heroica" ended up on T-shirts across the globe; Salas was a U.N. war correspondent in Vietnam, Cambodia, and other parts of Southeast Asia who captured a meeting between Castro and Ernest Hemingway following a fishing tournament. Their post-revolutionary Cuban work is an important part of La Imagen Constante, an exception to RLS' usual self-curated exhibitions.

Gallery owner Lange hopes that the guest slot will be a success, leading to more regular events curated by other people. "We'd like to open it out for proposals from anyone," he says, anticipating a hit show this time around.

La Imagen Constante (The Constant Image) also includes American artist Milly Moorhead West's vividly colorful landscapes. But it's the encompassing, cinematic photography of Salas and Korda that's the real draw here. It would have been a great draw for 10 Storehouse Row at the Navy Yard, the original site of this exhibition; only a few weeks ago, the show was announced at that location to everyone on the Noisette Company's mailing list. Berthed at the old Navy Base in North Charleston, 10 Storehouse Row has a handful of its own artists renting studio space; it's also hosted several memorable art events, such as Kevin Taylor's underground Jan. 31 group gathering New Year's Revolution II.

"RLS is downtown where it's vibrant," says Imagen Constante curator Jacob. "We can attract more people there."

Lange agrees. "Anytime you have a downtown location, it's going to be better. 10 Storehouse Row is such a neat space, but it's difficult to get anyone out there on a given night." The old Base is easy to get to by car and it's continuing to evolve as more artists and businesses use it. The folks at the Navy Yard need to let people know that and encourage them to visit the site — but they're sure not going to achieve that by neglecting to let their mail recipients know if a show's been cancelled.

It's been two years since photographer Brianna Stello opened her photography studio at 125 King St., tucked behind the Tellis Pharmacy, but it's only recently that she's started to promote her work as an art form as well as her more traditional wedding, fashion, and commercial photography.

Stello is another photographer who's found inspiration in her travels to Cuba. She recently opened an exhibition of photographic art dubbed The Passion, which reflects Stello's many interests — street scenes, portraits, architecture, nudes, and distinctly Cuban vignettes.

"I have a little bit of ADD," Stello smiles, referring to her constant need to capture specific, inspiring moments with her camera. She's included examples of her different styles and shots from her last trip to Cuba while on assignment for The Evening Post's new magazine for Tradd Street types, Garden and Gun. "I had two cameras at all times," she says, and the inspiration that travel gives her is obvious in the show. "Travel helps you to step outside the box and get excited all over again."

The excitement's evident not just in her choices and composition of the images but in the way she treats them as well. Blue, green, and red tints give extra depth to many of her images, as if they're lit by the rays of an exotic sun.

"Photoshop is my paintbrush," Stello says, wishing that she had more time to tinker on her computer instead of running her business from day to day. At least she has more traveling to look forward to. "I was in Cuba and Istanbul last year, and I'll visit Bermuda in May." In the meantime she'll continue to shoot "fun people stuff" along with the breadwinning work.

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