Andrés Pruna, or Andy, is a painter, diver, photographer, documentary filmmaker, and explorer. Born in Havana in 1940, he was educated both in Cuba and in the US, attending Eaglebrook School, the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts in Havana, as well as the National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts in New York City. His artistic talent surfaced while very young when he started painting and winning awards as a small child. He began showing at sixteen in an art gallery in Havana named “El Arte,” which doubled as an art supply. His work then made it to Madison Avenue in NYC, where it was shown and immediately sold at numerous galleries (1959-60).
This watercolor painting depicts what used to be a common sight in the Bahamas Islands a ‘fishing smack’, a working boat that was made entirely in the islands, usually sloop rigged with an overlapping boom. These boats will stay out for weeks fishing for lobster, conch, and fish in all kinds of weather. It’s not unusual for a tropical storm to turn a beautiful sunny day into a tempest within minutes and by staying out of harms way is usually the best choice, as the storms usually do not last long.
Though “Andy, the painter” was well on his way, everything changed in 1961 when his father and brother became political prisoners in Cuba, and Andy found himself joining the counter-revolution. His budding painting career took a back seat as “Andy, the soldier” became a member of the 2506 Brigade as the Executive Officer of the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT). These Navy Seals were the first to hit the beaches of Cuba in the battle we’ve come to know as The Bay of Pigs Invasion.
Golden Eagle flying over the Grand Canyon.
Although Andy would continue painting, the next two decades would carry him into other daring roles, expanding his travels and residences to places such as Madrid, Satellite Beach, Lahaina, and Puerto Madryn. In the mid-sixties, he worked as a Navy diver, becoming one of forty Navy Aquanauts trained to live and work in the greatest depths of the ocean, a program known as The Man in the Sea. It was during this time that “Andy, the deep-sea diver” became expertly acquainted with the properties of the sea and worked on a series of paintings and drawings for use in the Naval Oceanographic Office’s science papers.
In the late sixties, Andy expanded into photography, becoming the contract photographer for National Geographic Magazine. His work with NGM took “Andy, the photographer” around the world, from pole to pole, as a highly specialized underwater photographer; it is also what led him to work in film.
This photograph was taken in the summer in Baffin Island in the Northwest Territories of the Canadian Arctic near Pangnirtung Fjord. It is a nighttime (arctic twilight or midnight sun) picture of one of the many glaciers that empty into the fjord while on assignment with National Geographic Magazine in 1973.
As a filmmaker, Andy broke new documentary ground when he was first to film whales copulating in the wild as well as being the first to capture an Orca attack on a sea lion colony. In 1973, his documentary, A Prospect of Whales, won international acclaim, and, when shown by the BBC Natural History Unit, broke all viewership records even surpassing Jacques Cousteau’s long-held ratings. But, the pinnacle of Andy’s film career came with his 1977 documentary film called Había Una Vez en el Sur (trans. Killers of the Wild), a movie about wildlife in the then-remote and little known region of Argentinean Patagonia. Había Una Vez en el Sur went on to win Canada’s 1977 Etrog for Best Photography (currently called the Genie Awards), Director’s Choice at the Miami International Film Festival that same year, and was also nominated for the Silver Bear in documentary at the Berlin Film Festival.
This painting depicts one of the many myths and legends told by some of the tribes in the Amazon Jungle.
In constant motion, Andy spent the next decades spearheading and managing eco-forward business initiatives in China. He did double duty by exhibiting privately for philanthropist friends and sponsors throughout Asia and Europe.
This is a painting that tries to capture the feeling when one is alone in the deep jungle, where the imagined and the real becomes one.
During his varied careers as diver, photographer, and filmmaker, Andy’s art has remained his steady compass. And now, though his draw to adventure has not diminished, it is with this first love that “Andy, the painter” spends his creative time and energy. In the works are plans for exhibits in Switzerland and Germany, with a possible addition of France, as well as a showing of his 10,000+-photography collection. When not traveling, he works and lives in Miami, FL, with his wife, “María Isabel, the side-kick.”
Check out Andy on video: https://vimeo.com/111385511