By Jessica Tuggle
VERO BEACH -- Like a master puppeteer, the Vero Beach Museum of Art has tugged on just the right strings to make hundreds of museum visitors excited about art this season.
The most popular exhibit at the museum this spring is "Recycled Dreams: Pablo Cano's Marionettes," a show that combines human imagination and ingenuity with satire, humor and repurposed objects for a creative display that stimulates intergenerational conversation.
Mr. Cano is a South Florida artist with a talent for found-object sculpture and uses his marionettes in his own productions. Born in Cuba, but raised in the U.S., Mr. Cano and his family were on the last flight out of Cuba before the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
This is Mr. Cano's first exhibit outside South Florida, said Jay Williams, museum curator.
At any given time in the Schumann Gallery, children or adults can be seen exploring the hall with the 24 different pieces of art that happen to be marionettes. Some of the pieces are just fun and silly, but others are recreations of old famous works of art, said Mr. Williams.
One of the most interesting and detailed art history homages is "Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife," which is a mixed media design based on the "Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife" by painter Jan van Eyck.
Mr. Cano was able to reproduce the intricate details of the painting using various household objects and what some people might consider rubbish. In a clear sign of the times, one family was looking at a digital picture of the original painting and comparing it to the marionette sculpture in the gallery, exclaiming each time they found a matching detail.
No matter the age of the museum visitor, everyone is fascinated by the recycled pieces used by Mr. Cano in creating the unusual marionettes. Someone with a good eye might even be able to identify a sink and a shopping cart among the framework for his creations.
Other items in his masterpieces include foil from cigarette packets, cheese graters, taillights, babydoll eyes, baskets, gasoline cans and a buoy.
Other fascinating marionettes recognizable historical figures, include an 8-foot tall sculpture of "Queen Marie Antoinette," a "Fred Astaire" and a "Louis Armstrong."
The darkest and most sinister marionette in the room is a cigar-smoking, top hat-wearing man-spider called "Dr. Death aka Fidel Castro."
"He obviously does not have a positive view of Mr. Castro," Mr. Williams said with a chuckle.
Interestingly, one of the eyeballs of "Dr. Death" is a tiny baseball, alluding to the Cuban dictator's pitching talents early on in his life.
"Most people don't know that he was being scouted to play here in the U.S.," Mr. Williams said.
For the most part, Mr. Cano finds his own materials, but sometimes people drop off objects at his house in case he can use them.
"It's an incredibly intriguing story in this exhibit. You can see politics, art history, history and religion because he pulls from all over the culture," Mr. Williams said.
Even technology is present in Mr. Cano's designs with pieces from his "Seven Wonders of the Modern World" production, "Amazona," "Face-Booka," and "Google Lina."
"He pokes a little fun at our dependence on social media and the Internet," Mr. Williams said.
The exhibit also includes a video of Mr. Cano's marionettes in action and during production.
"Recycled Dreams" will be on display at the museum through May 26.
For more information about this exhibit or other exhibits or programs at the Vero Beach Museum of Art, call (772) 231-0707, or visit www.verobeachmuseum.org.