Flag Paintings:

Cuba and Mexico




Summer 1990
Trying to make a buck

During the 1980’s I decided to do a series of "flag paintings" of Latin American countries. Mexico and Cuba is as far as I got. I already had Puerto Rico –the main inspiration for the series. The purpose of the series was to print limited edition prints for the U.S. market. I picked these three subjects because Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba were the three largest "Hispanic" communities in the United States at that time.



Puerto-Rico,-hoy-ayer-y-para-siempre--painting-by-John-Rivera-Resto, Puerto Rico -hoy, ayer y para siempre. This painting was the inspiration for the rest of the "flag paintings" series.


The concept for the series had been already established with the Puerto Rico design: a flag of the country, native musical instruments, and a plain background. The compositions were designed to appeal to the cultural and nostalgic sentiment Hispanics have for their countries of origin. Not only would the artwork be instantly recognizable, but it would also inspire a feeling of identity and cultural pride. My goal was to do a painting for everyone of the twenty Latin American countries, but I only managed to complete three paintings in the series before loosing interest in the project due to financial limitations.



mexico-se-pinta-solo,-painting-by-john-rivera-resto-1990

México se pinta solo.
Artist oils on masonite panel. The expression is not easy to translate. Literally it says "Mexico paints itself", but the meaning is closer to "Mexico needs no introduction", or, "Mexico (its people, the land, the culture) speaks for itself".


Artistically, the Mexico painting is perhaps the best of the series; the composition is more complex and the coloring is beatifically balanced. The Cuban print followed the same pattern as the Puerto Rico design since they are so culturally close and the flags are identical -except for the inversion of the red and blue colors. For these I used colors as vibrant as the Caribbean.



cuba,-siempre-te-llevo-en-el-alma,-painting-by-john-rivera-resto-1990

Cuba -siempre te llevo en el alma.
Artist oils on masonite panel. The literal translation is: "Cuba -you are always in my soul", or, "Cuba -you are always within me". This is an expression I have heard a lot by Cubans living in the United States.


An oil version of each was each theme was painted on smooth masonite panels and photographer George Shuba shot them for printing. It takes an experienced and skilful photographer to light and photograph paintings well. George did a superb job -and I was lucky to have him. At the time, I still had not ventured into photography. By the way, George was the photographer who photographed the Beatles during their concert at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in 1964! For all I know, he was also present at Woodstock.


Next, I took large-size negatives of the photographs to a commercial printer, and they produced one-hundred copies of each theme. Most were sold by slow-mail. This was before computers and the web had revolutionized the world, so selling online was not an option. I was not able to find a suitable salesperson to sell the prints to stores, so I dropped the project. Also, producing the prints (again, this was before digital printing) was expensive and beyond my modest means at the time.


As of this 2020 page update, I'm considering reviving the flag paintings series, and adding other versions of countries from around the world. But this time around, my intention is to set up an online store to sell printed versions of new works. This way, when I get too old to climb scaffolds (come to think of it, at sixty-one I'm already too old!), well, I would have an outlet to carry on. But for now, I have these three "flag paintings" for you to see and hopefully enjoy.







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