Artist and history professor, Leandro Gomez Quintero, creates uncanny miniature model vehicles so finely detailed they include marks of wear-and-tear on interior upholstery and engine cables under car hoods. He began his practice by making scaled-down replicas of military surplus equipment from World War II as teaching aids. Those who saw his work encouraged him to recreate the uniquely customized vehicles seen around his region as a way of depicting everyday life in Cuba. “Some are old jeeps that are converted to taxis, others could be cargo trucks that become passenger buses. I create these and use humor to show the spirit of my community,” says Leandro.
Because resources are limited in Cuba, Leandro takes ephemeral materials and uses his imaginative and artistic skills to craft them into car parts. This same need for innovation is what makes the Cuban vehicles he depicts so unique; many of them—the real ones—have been remodeled and repurposed over and over for decades, leaving them covered in hand-made additions, battered paint jobs, and rusted chrome components. His artworks are not just copies, but testaments to the creativity and resilience of Cuban people.
“These art works are representations of what my community sees on a daily basis on our roads and streets and by making these, I feel I contribute to recording our colloquial history and my time on this earth.” A dedicated educator, Leandro started a community project called “TransportArte Baracoa” where he works with elementary school-aged children, teaching them about the artistic techniques and history—modern and ancient—behind his miniatures. “My hope is that these children will carry on the work, while at the same time, learning something about our immediate past […] My community has a long history and tradition of artisanry going back even to prehistoric times, when the Tainos made objects by hand from the materials surrounding them. I follow suit by making my works from the colloquial and contemporary materials and objects that surround me.”