Art has been part of the human experience for millennia; witness the cave painting of Altamira, Spain and Lascaux, France, which date to 15,000 – 10,000 BCE. That human beings need to express themselves in some form or fashion for whatever reason is well-established; that there is a universally agreed upon definition of art and artists is not. Our series will introduce you to six artists who have chosen to convey something about themselves, their life experiences, their craft and their talents through the prism we call “art.” We thank them for sharing their art and their time with us. 

Ana Trelles Portundo’s artistic output ranges from drawings in India ink to enhanced cigar boxes, to large-scale paintings rendered in acrylic. Her work is heavily influenced by her Cuban roots, even though she left that island nation when she was just eight months old.

She has never seen Cuba, but it and her family, culture and faith are the driving forces behind the subjects and themes she chooses for her artistic expression.

“Art should come straight from the heart,” says Trelles Portuondo.

Trelles Portuondo’s work can be seen in The Archive, a new gallery at 1559  unset Drive, just east of Red Road. Here she speaks about her art pieces fashioned from cigar boxes and woodworker’s shims. The re-purposed cigar box lid is covered with a portrait of a famous person such as José Marti, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas or Henry Flagler. The medium is India ink. She often draws directly on the page of an old book, affixing that to the cigar box. The wooden shims are put together to form a cross, with the figure of Christ painted abstractly
or realistically.

She uses cigar boxes because of their shape, utility and because they are a reminder of Cuba. The shims are a reminder of her husband’s Rafael’s profession as an architect. The artist likes to work with small studies before translating them to oversized canvases.  “The studies help me to resolve any problems in the design,” she says.

As it turns out, Trelles Portuondo’s studies are so well-rendered that they are just as evocative as the larger-scale canvases. She likes to use acrylic paint because of the speed at which the medium allows her to work.

A large black and white portrait of José Marti derives its immediacy from the sparse quality of the brushwork contrasted on a stark white canvas. A portrait of a woman in profile, the same quickly applied brushwork, results in a somewhat more traditional composition of a dark-skinned woman sporting an abundant headdress. “I always start with the face; the rest follows from there. But I cannot work it out until I actually start to draw, then it flows,” said Trelles Portuondo.

The artist’s versatility extends to two-dimensional pieces that are created from glue and thin sheets of foil. She builds up the layers of glue forming a pattern or an image, then covers the glue in foil, burnishing it, sometimes stippling it and then rubbing in paint or India ink. The end result is a very modern and engaging picture in relief that is the perfect accent for an industrial design-inspired décor.

Ana Trelles Portuondo holds two degrees from FIU and has been an art educator for 16 years at the St. Theresa Catholic School. Her work has been exhibited in a number of venues and she has won awards for several of her entries. She is one of five resident artists at The Archive. For more information about the artist go online to


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