José Antonio Pantoja Hernández was born in Cuba in 1971. As an artist who grew up in the Mayabeque Province of Cuba, in the city of Bejucal, "Pantoja" received apprenticeships as a carpenter and woodworker using antiquated tools. As his interests turned to painting and sculpting, he sought visual inspiration from a small collection of art books that showcased mainly works from Masters. By 2002, Pantoja paintings began to be depicted everyday life in Cuba. As a member of a state-sponsored art collective, Pantoja was eventually able to exhibit his works on the streets of the Havana promenade, "El Paseo Del Prado.” There, he would often only display one or two paintings a week, selling them to tourists. Over time, his work became more surreal and somber. Eventually, he began to paint what he calls "the errors of the Revolution." The director of the Queretaro City Museum in Mexico learned about Pantoja's work in 2011 and sent him an invitation to display his work in the museum. Pantoja was able to parlay that invitation into a special pass to leave Cuba. He said goodbye to his friends and family and boarded a plane to Mexico with eight paintings. When he landed in Mexico City in June of 2011, he decided not to exhibit his work and instead took a bus to the border town of Nuevo Laredo. There, he crossed into the U.S. border and asked for political asylum. The story of his defection was chronicled in August 2011 issue of This Land press, today Pantoja lives and paints in Tulsa, Oklahoma

       The last egg

Pantoja standing next to his paintings at Paseo Del Prado Havana Cuba 2008

Pantoja started painting to protest the government. He painted a series to represent the dire situation of the people in Cuba. He chose to paint surrealistically because "speaking out loud would put you in jail in 1994.    

     The last egg 

oil on canvas 120x70 cm painted in Cuba 2007

During the special period in Cuba famine was an everyday hardship. Food rationing brought down the daily average caloric intake to about 1,900 calories, with some adults and children getting as little 1,400.The recommended daily minimum is 2,100. During the most difficult times of the special period,Cubans would only receive 1 egg a month per person. The man in this portrait, named Angel, sits waiting for his death. the two skeletons in the background also represent angel, and what he wants from the dimly lit room,support beams, a common symbol in the works of Pantoja keep the decaying home from collapse.

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Tulsa People Magazine

December 2018

Tim Landes

Hanging inside Gilcrease Museum, less than 10 feet from John James Audubon’s renowned painting The Wild Turkey, is a painting by Tulsa artist Jose Antonio Pantoja Hernandez called Exodus. Inspired by the millions of migrants fleeing the ongoing Syrian Civil War, the piece is part of the museum’s Americans All! exhibit featuring the works of 26 immigrant artists. Hernandez, 47, was born and raised in Cuba, where he painted on the streets. After a chance encounter in Havana with Tulsa journalist Michael Mason, Hernandez made it his goal to come here. He eventually sought political asylum in the U.S. and settled in Tulsa.

Read the full story.

This exhibition is now on view. Learn more about Americans All!



José Antonio Pantoja Hernández American, born Cuba (1971-) Exodus

2017, acrylic on canvas 48x36 inch

Exodus is my reaction to the slaughter of thousands upon thousands of innocent Syrians at the hands of their own government. As the father of a young child, I was shocked by the countless images of children killed by bombs, and even worse-if that's possible-by the Syrian government's use of poison gas.


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Animal Farm

Oil on canvas 77x57 in painted in Tulsa Ok 2021-2022 

Work started on July 11, 2021, the day that Cuban people demonstrated against the repressive dictatorship of Castro & Canel 



 oil on canvas 120x90 cm 2008 painted in Cuba. 

The special period was an extended economic crisis in cuba that began in 1991 after the dissolution of the soviet union,Cubans remember the decade as one of great suffering and hunger. Hunger and famine became widespread. During this time citywide blackout became a common occurrence. in this painting, we see a glimpse into the oppressive home life of cubans in bejucal the man at the center is my father;the woman seated by him is his girlfriend during the especial period, my father kept an emaciated pig in the apartment for about a year,until it was eventually sold to buy alcohol. 

                  Banana man 

      Oil on canvas 100x70 cm painted in Cuba 2004

Portrait of Luis Hernández in the world of Cuban trova, almost no one will recognize him, but if he talks about El Plátano, just like that, everyone will discover the indefatigable photographer who for more than four decades immortalized the most famous faces of the song and of the young troubadours who began to defend the heritage of this cultural manifestation. 

                                                                                        The Promise 

                                                                                                 Oil on burlap 48x36 in painted in Cuba during the special period. 

Painting inspired by a religious old man named Lazarus from Pantoja’s town every December 17 for most of  Cubans is the day of the well-known Saint Lazarus people use to walk thousands of miles by foots without shoes others they crawl kneeling in a bloody and painful promise until they reach their long-awaited goal the temple of Saint Lazarus located in Rincon municipality of Santiago de Las Vegas Havana Cuba.