ARTIST

HAYDEE SCULL

Haydée Scull's work has been highly praised at exhibitions presented in Havana, Cuba at the Bella Artes Museum, La Rampa Gallery, Lyceum Tennis Club, Havana Hilton Hotel, Unesco and later in the United States, at the Bacardi Art Gallery, University of Miami, Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami International Airport, Omni International Mall, Big Five Club, Fountaineblue Hotel, Viscaya Palace & Museum and Cuba Nostalgia. Several of her paintings where sold to art collectors worldwide: Canada, Spain, Switzerland, Holland, France, England, Mexico and through out the United States.

 

Some of Haydée Scull's art collectors where: Ronald Reagan (President of the United States), Juliana Louise Emma Marie Wilhelmina (Queen of the Netherlands), Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor (Queen of the United Kingdom), Sanford & Dolores Ziff (Sunglass Hut founder/Philanthropist), Abel Holtz (Banker/Philanthropist), Jerry Lewis (Actor/Comedian), Andy Garcia (Actor/Director), Gloria Estefan (Singer/Songwriter), Mathew Modine (Actor/Filmmaker), Antonio Banderas (Actor/Singer). 

 

BIOGRAPHY

THE SCULL SISTERS

 

Haydée Scull (1931-2007) 

Sahara Scull  (1931-2008)

Born in Havana, Cuba

The Scull sisters collaborated to create elaborate and playful depictions of the activity in the streets of Cuba and Miami. Their compositions portray life as whimsical and sometimes humorous. Their early paintings portray life on the streets of pre-Castro Cuba and later, after they immigrated to the United States, in the Cuban communities of Miami, Florida. The large paintings are enhanced with sculptural elements that might recall the quality of Robert Rauchenberg's Combine paintings of the 1950's.

The family effort was initiated by the twin sisters Haydée and Sahara and eventually grew to include Haydée's son, Michael, and then, later, Michael's daughter Haydée, who was named for her grandmother. The sisters, infamously known as the twin artists with flair, were perhaps as well known for always matching from head to toe as for their art. They wore hot pink and polka-dotted dresses or floral sundresses, complete with hats, shoes and jewelry. In the later years, Haydée's son, Michael, also dressed accordingly and wore suits, shirts, ties and shoes to match the twins. They had fashioned themselves into caricatures that were often included in their compositions.

Haydée and Sahara were born on December 5, sometime in the 1930s in Cuba. They were intentionally secretive about the exact year of their birth all of their lives, desiring to conceal their exact age. They had Mexican, Cuban and Chinese ancestry in their family but were culturally associated with Cuba. Haydée and Sahara Scull, the daughters of a Mexican-Cuban doctor, grew up poor in Havana. Both girls showed an early inclination towards the arts, which was heightened by exposure to their grandfather, who was a respected painter of churches throughout Cuba. As children, they made drawing of Havana's street life and once created a three dimensional replica of the house across the street, complete with a miniature figure of the girl who lived there. The young girl, however, misunderstood their intention as an act of mockery and was insulted; the twins were punished for their art. Life became more difficult after the death of their father in 1945. However, they remembered their father's encouragement to finish school and pursue higher education, so the Scull sisters attended the Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Alejandro in Havana, which is considered to be the Cuba's oldest and most prestigious art school. They graduated in 1952. Haydée Scull married a photographer with whom she had two children, Michael and Elizabeth.

After art school, the sisters collaborated as artists, just as they had as children. Haydée and Sahara looked to their immediate surroundings for subject matter and have therefore been compared to folk memory painters. That, coupled with their playful style, caricature-like figures and lush settings is why their work has been so readily classified as folk art, despite their formal art training and education. From 1959 to 1969, the Scull sisters were successful artists and sold their art to foreign embassies in Havana.

When Michael approached the age of draft eligibility, Haydée Scull feared that he would be forced to serve time in the Cuban army, so she sent him to Canada to study art in 1967. Michael soon moved from Canada to Miami, Florida, and Haydée Scull, who was then divorced, decided it was time for her and her daughter to leave for Miami. It was 1969, and they were among Cuban passengers on the Freedom Flights from Havana to Miami. Initially, finding work was difficult for Haydée. She recalled that people at the welfare office suggested that she babysit or clean, but she kept insisting that she was an artist. The office clerk handed Haydée a pen and some paper and she quickly sketched a Havana street scene.

The welfare employees were speechless at the drawing and even told her that they would purchase her art. She later retold that story as a turning point for her life as an artist in the United States. Haydée said that was how she started to build the base of her patrons and sold her first watercolor painting for $20.

Sahara arrived in Miami in 1973 after the death of her husband; the couple had no children. The sisters were reunited after the longest separation that they had ever endured. The twins soon resumed their artistic collaboration in Miami. Michael Scull, Haydée's son, became interested in art making at a very young age. While still in elementary school, he made a small clay figurine for his mother, who then invited Michael to begin making art with her and Sahara. Years, later, Michael Scull's daughter Haydée won a school prize for a beach scene painting, prompting the Sculls to invite her to make art with them as well. Some of the Scull's work bears only (the elder) Haydée Scull's signature, although the family worked as a unit to produce the piece. Haydée Scull once said that she did the background and faces, Michael Scull constructed the bodies and Sahara filled in the details. When Michael Scull's daughter Haydée joined the collaboration, she completed the lettering and other details. Haydée Scull commented on their collaboration as one of harmony and said that they always had the same ideas and inspiration for their works.

In 1991, the city of Miami commissioned the Sculls to create a painting to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth of England. The Queen was painted at Viscaya Palace, a well-known Miami landmark. In the piece, the Queen is standing on one of the stone boats that adorn the grounds of Viscaya. She is feeding the manatees wearing her trademark gloves. The painting was presented to Queen Elizabeth as she toured Viscaya Palace.

The Scull sisters were known for their flamboyant, sometimes outrageous, matching outfits, many of which they designed and made themselves. They were fixtures on the Miami party and social scene. Their appearances were almost performance art. The sisters never let themselves be seen out of costume. They were called bookends, identical except that Haydée draped her hair to the right and Sahara draped her hair to the left. Sahara never learned to speak English; Haydée Scull conducted business for them, always listening to her soft-spoken sister offering advice in Spanish.

Artwork by the Scull sisters and family is viewed as important visual documents of pre-Castro Cuba and late-20th-century Miami, much like that of artists Mario Sánchez and George E. Morgan. They achieved considerable notoriety and fame during their lifetimes. They were even photographed by Annie Leibovitz. Indeed, they were local celebrities as much of their work could be seen throughout Miami in local restaurants and other public venues. Haydée was also known to make smaller works on her own that she signed on the back as "Creator of Pictures in Third Dimension". 

Haydée Scull died of coronary artery disease on October 23, 2007. Sahara was grief-stricken by her sister's death but vowed to continue making art with her nephew Michael and grandniece Haydée. However, Sahara only lived a few months longer than her sister and died on May 31, 2008, apparently also from coronary artery disease. In 2010, an artwork made by the Scull sisters sold for approximately $25,000.

 

Published by American Folk Art / A Regional Reference book in 2012. By Kristin G. Congdon, Kara Kelley Hallmark.

 

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