René Martinez Peña (Renato) was born in 1953 in Camagüey, Cuba. In 1980 he left Cuba as part of the Mariel boatlift and moved to San Francisco, where he met his life partner Barry Graynor in 1981. After Renato’s death in 2016, Barry decided to publish this book to memorialize his drawings and paintings. This book features a selection of his early felt-tip pen and marker drawings, pastels and computer images, and over 100 of his acrylic paintings.
Renato was a natural painter. He began painting as a small child and studied art formally in Havana for several years. His paintings have been shown in numerous exhibits throughout the Bay Area and abroad, including the San Francisco Mission Cultural Center. His painting, “Mujer en el Balcón,” was featured on the poster to showcase the center’s 1992 exhibit. His style has sometimes been called naïve or childlike, and while this may be true, there is a sophisticated blend of color, movement and humor in many of his paintings.
Renato took his inspiration from many sources, the foremost being Mina, an internationally renowned Italian popular singer. Renato’s paintings also reflect his native Cuba, which can be seen in the beach scenes, the palm trees swaying in the tropical breeze, and the bright colors. Most of all he loved his cats, and they show up in many of his paintings – in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes!