About 400 people gathered Friday night at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art for a sneak peek at a exhibit of contemporary Cuban art and artifacts tracing the recent history of the Caribbean nation.
"Revolutionary Island: Tales of Cuban History and Culture" evokes the colorful culture and its resilient people through works of art and objects from the collection of Sonoma Valley residents Sarah and Darius Anderson.
"For one couple's collection, it's an amazing amount of art," said Kate Eilertsen, SVMA's executive director, who helped curate the exhibit. "And this isn't all of it."
Anderson gave patrons a private tour of the exhibit, culled from the collection he has been amassing for the past 25 years. He pulled the exhibit together during the past year with the help of Sonoma Valley artist Keith Wicks.
"We whittled 1,000 pieces down to 250," Wicks said. "There was so much artwork that we had to put some on the back side (of a wall)."
The artwork explores the frustration of artists living under an oppressive regime and the heartbreak of a revolution whose promise has faded.
"Cuba is in transition in ideology," said Anderson, who is a principal of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat. "That's what I hope to capture in the art."
In Cuba, Anderson said, he found a culture that reflects his own vices and virtues, from baseball to cigars.
"Everything about them oozes passion," he said. "They love their art, tobacco and rum."
Munching Cubano sandwiches and sipping mojitos, guests enjoyed live music while perusing the contemporary art along with cigar humidors and tobacco tools, rum bottles and poker chips, historical photos and posters.
"This is Cuba," Richard Idell of Sonoma said. "We've been there, and it's reflective of what you see when you go."
"It's really a capsule of Cuba on all levels," said Karin Bartow, a museum guide. "You can't separate the history from the art and culture and the people."