I first came across the works of Edgar Soberon visiting Charco del Ingenio. There were a number of prints of cactuses, and other flora in the shop as well as in their newly built nature center. I was fascinated by the detail in the paintings, the fine lines delineating the plants, bringing them to life even though they were done in monochrome. Soberon is a painter of nature, and when you see his works in full color, his still lifes recall the works of Dutch and Italian artists of the 17th and 18th century. The green leaves on the plants and vegetables are as fresh as those in a late spring garden, the fruits so ripe and succulent, you feel your mouth water at the thought of taking a bite, and you can almost smell the aroma of the flowers. Yes, the works are visual, but they engage all the senses.
Edgar Soberon in his studio on Insurgentes
But there is more to Soberon’s work than a recreation of the best of still lifes of the old masters. He often injects something new, bringing a touch of modernity to them. “I’m a realist painter,” he says, “with a solid underpinning of modernism.” He acknowledges his nod to old art, but he brings elements into his works that give them a hint of surrealism.
Often what seems like a “normal” depiction of a still life, makes you wonder about some object that doesn’t quite seem to fit, it makes you question—what is the reason for this here, in this space? One such example is a watermelon on a table, in front of a window looking over the sea. But why is there another watermelon slice balancing on top of it? And what is that plastic bag holding water, seemingly hanging on a wall all about?
Edgar Soberon was born in Cuba in the 1960s but the family relocated to Spain. He spent his early childhood in Madrid, but at the age of 12 was sent to New York to live with an uncle so he could get an education in the United States. Eventually his parents joined him there and settled in New York.
Edgar recalls that first journey, watching the high rises as the airplane circled and descended into the city. The year was 1973, and he saw giant cranes on the side of one of the twin towers as they were putting in the final touches on the rooftop. He felt as if he were witnessing the birth of the towers that day, as he himself was beginning a new life in the United States.
Although Edgar loved to draw since childhood, he did not follow this path immediately. After high school, not sure what he wanted to do, he began working in the Diamond district in New York City casting jewelry in gold and silver, and setting stones. But during this time he continued drawing and putting his works in a folder. Then one day, during lunch break, he took his portfolio to the Parson School of Design, unsure how it would be received. He was given a full, four-year scholarship to the school—a blessing in being admitted to the prestigious private collage, and having the financial support which would have been prohibitive to his family. Prior to his graduation with a BFA in 1987, he traveled to Paris and Italy for a one year study abroad.
For a while he was interested in abstraction, and some of his early works are collages that don’t seem to have any connection to his present still lifes. But his attraction to the works of Picasso or Braque, served a role in shaping his present works. In time he came to realize that he could not look at art in polarities, but needed to create his own style integrating elements from each. He has found still life to be boundless in its variety and the best subject for his art. For Soberon, the essence of painting is: “That which is visual, still and silent, the echo of our existence, the trace of our passing.”
Soberon first came to San Miguel in 1996 with his wife Paulina Hawkins because this was her home town. The daughter of Jim Hawkins and Carmen Masip, she was director of the Academia Hispano Americana school of Spanish in San Miguel.
They loved the city but they did not settle here until several years later. In 2001, when 9/11 took place, he was still living in New York, not far from the twin towers. After the first impact he witnessed the second tower falling like a stack of dominoes. Soberon felt the devastation on a personal level. He recalled how he had first seen the towers going up when he first came to the city, and now 31 years later he was watching them collapse. He felt “New York was not New York anymore…and perhaps I was not myself anymore either.” It was time to leave.
In 2019, he suffered a great loss when Paulina died of cancer. Then in 2020 came the Covid pandemic. Soberon found himself seeking refuge in the solitude in the Charco del Ingenio. Here, amid the flora of cactuses, succulents, and semi-arid trees he found inspiration for his new series of paintings of Mexican flora. They are represented in oils and lithographs, following “the pure lines of plants,” that he favors. Soberon says: “I look for form in nature; oftentimes it dictates the pictorial structure of the painting.”
Edgar Soberon has had numerous national and international exhibitions of his works, many awards, and his works can be found in collections in the United States and other countries. You can see the works on Edgar Soberon on his site: www.edgarsoberon.com or reach him by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org