In 2011 President Obama loosened the rules on American travel to Cuba, allowing small educational groups to venture through Miami for “people-to-people” exchanges again. In December 2012 I traveled with Cuba Education Tours to attend the Havana International Jazz Festival and see the sites in Havana.

In nine days we visited Old Havana, the Malecon seawall, Vedado neighborhoods, Jose Fuster’s art studio, Plaza Jose Marti, the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabana, Las Terrazas eco-community in the Sierra del Rosario mountain range, an organic farm… At the Museo Municipal de Regla I experienced dances and music related to the Santeria religion and Afrocuban cultures and observed ritual objects and sculptures.

I returned with more than a thousand photographs of the people, places and daily life in Cuba. From the oft-photographed vintage American cars, to monumental statues, people hanging out on the Malecon seawall or on street corners, hanging laundry and the art of Cuba, I focused on the rich beauty, culture, age and decay of the island.

Bubb’s paintings from Cuba are on display at the Linen Building, 1402 W. Grove St., in Boise through August 30.Cuba remains a nation of very little commerce—one sees no commercial billboards, scant advertisements and few stores. Music, however, is everywhere on the island. Small bands welcomed us at every destination, playing traditional Cuban favorites and old folk tunes. The food was fantastic—earthy pork and seafood dishes, beans and plantains. The people were warm, charming and engaging.

When I returned to Boise I began painting right away. Working from my photographs, I create in encaustic—an ancient hot-wax painting process. The result is an image with deep color, thick textures and a translucent surface.

Gallery: Cuba on the Cusp

Photos and paintings from Karen Bubb

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The views and opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Boise State University, the Center for Idaho History and Politics, or the School of Public Service.