Jorge A. Valdes, aka JAVA, is a self-taught Cuban-American artist, living in New York since 1992. Born in Santiago de Cuba in 1956, he began creating art as a teenager. The use of found objects and broken china in his work traces back to his native country, during a period when supplies were scarce. It’s also a response to a reality that transcended scarcity in a world where neither abundance nor scarcity can express enough about the need of awareness towards a planet requiring all our attention as the only world where we can exist.

“As a youth I used to go treasure hunting to the garbage dumps, where people threw away things, and I started to make sculptures with the objects that I found there,” JAVA recalls. Over time his use of recyclable and unwanted materials became a passion and an identity that continues to mark his work.

In 1992, JAVA left Cuba for Miami, where—despite abundance—he realized that unwanted material was as subjective and magical as in Cuba. In a reaction to the flushing shine of Miami Beach, in a hidden spot of a parking lot, JAVA created a series of found objects sculptures that was shown in Atmosphere Gallery in Miami Beach. Leaving unclaimed whatever didn’t sell, he quickly moved to New York City, where he continued creating art while completing his Masters in Education at Columbia University in 1997.

JAVA’s art has been featured in various galleries and exhibits in the US, Cuba and Italy. He was chosen as the artist for the annual campaign of National Payroll Week, participated in the Southwest Minnesota State University Art Museum exhibit “Reclaimed” and was represented in a documentary about his life and work by DEVA International Film during a solo show at Franklin 54 Gallery in Chelsea, New York, in 2011.

Using everything from crushed cans and broken dishes to abandoned metal and wood, JAVA has created a body of work reminiscent of the mystique and beauty of Santeria, a syncretic religion of West African and Caribbean origin that’s been influenced by Christianity. The artist’s sculptures reference the deities, animals, objects and places related to the ritualistic religion, while the exhibition’s title “Santero” alludes to the priest or maker of Santeria. JAVA’s attitude of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is a meaningful one, which he takes seriously in his dedication to the work.

In addition to his activities as a visual artist he has published poetry in “Not Black and White” (Plain View Press, 1996) and a variety of magazines. During his career in teaching, JAVA has continued his passion with art. He became a 2014 Brooklyn Arts Council grantee, receiving the Local Arts Support and Community Arts Fund grants for a public commission. He currently resides in the Bronx, New York, and is active in creating public art and teaching workshops for local youth while continuing his work in the studio.