Renato Martinez Paintings

A special reception and show featuring Renato’s paintings took place at  “spark arts gallery” August 1  through September 22, 2016.


Barry was happy to report it was Renato’s best show ever; many paintings were sold, not only to family and friends but to folks that were new to Renato’s work.

All net proceeds benefitted the family in Cuba.

Show Details

Artist’s Statement

“I paint to make people happy. I want my paintings to make people recall the scent of flowers and the soft enchantment of a simple poem. I paint because colors fascinate me as well as the different ranges of hues that I am able to combine in all their immeasurable splendor. I paint to afford visual pleasure, somewhat gentle, dreamlike and above all peaceful. My paintings are full of optimism, of soundness and peace of mind, and of enigmas that act as symbols intended to arouse one’s curiosity to probe more deeply into life’s meanings. All in all, I paint landscapes that have lived in my subconscious for much time; tropical butterflies and exotic birds that perch or fly free in a splendid sky; and divine beings like terrestrial gods with immense eyes that offer sensuality and that help the humans smile.”

Special thanks to Wilfred J. Jones for photographing Renato’s paintings.

The Angel

Acrylic Painting by Renato


Celebration of Life Ceremony

Sunday, April 24,2016

Presided by Rev. Lucinda Martin


In Loving Memory of

René (Renato) Martinez Peña

June 28,1953 – April 13, 2016

Artist Biography
René “Renato” Martinez Peña

René and Renato translate to ‘reborn’ in French and Italian. Legally born René, it’s unclear where the nickname Renato originated. However, it suited the painter well as he was a great lover of the Italian language and culture. While he is no longer with us today, he is reborn through his wonderful paintings.

In 1980, Renato left Cuba as part of the Mariel boatlift and moved to San Francisco, where he met his life-partner, Barry, in 1981. Renato was a natural painter. He began painting as a small child and studied art formally in Havana for six 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. Working primarily in acrylic, his style was called “naïve,” meaning childlike, and while this is true, there is a sophisticated blend of color, movement, and humor in all of his paintings.

Renato took his inspiration from many sources, the foremost being Mina, an internationally renowned Italian popular singer.  Inspired by Mina, Renato enjoyed listening to all kinds of international popular music, not only from Italy but also Cuba, Brazil, France, Mexico, and Spain. In 2015, Renato published a book on the Cuban singer Celeste Mendoza, known as La Reina del Guaguanco.

Renato’s paintings heavily reflect his native Cuba, with beach scenes, palm trees waving in the tropical breeze, and bright colors.  A lover of cats, Renato incorporated his own cats in his paintings – in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes.

Exhibits (1985 – 2013)

  • Ecco Salon
  • California College of the Arts and Crafts
  • Mission Cultural Center
  • Art for life
  • University Club
  • Rite-Spot Cafe
  • Sweet Lorraine
  • Caruso’s Antiques
  • Naranjo’s Antiques
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Rental Gallery
  • Sol y Luna Restaurant
  • Bagdad Cafe
  • New Conservatory Theatre Center
  • Gallery Concord
  • First Interstate Center Arcade
  • International Villiage Gallery
  • San Francisco Open Studios
  • Sobi Artists’ Gallery
  • 201 California Street
  • Galería Billena, Habana, Cuba
  • M. di Cesare, via Fiume Giallo, Roma Italy
  • Puff N Stuff, San Francisco

Private Collections

  • Cuba
  • England
  • France
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Mexico
  • Switzerland
  • United States


  • “Mujer en el Balcón
  • Mission Cultural Center 1992

Celeste Mendoza, La Reina del Guaguanco

Graduated from a prestigious art school in Havana, Cuba, Renato Martinez expands his creativity to the written word and combines it with many unpublished photos of famous singer/dancer Celeste Mendoza better known as La Reina del Guaguanco, giving to the reader a brand new perspective of the only woman to cultivate the guaguanco style. Celeste Mendoza died in 1998 and Renato Martinez is the curator of her numerous unpublished pictures and personal memorabilia.

Celebration of Life Ceremony

In honor of Renato we celebrated his life on Sunday, April 24,2016 presided by Rev. Lucinda Martin. The ceremony served as a time of healing, acceptance, forgiveness – for one’s self and for others, and a time to express our love and gratitude. And so,  he raised his wings and flew off into his joyous new life!” For the full ceremony, visit Graceful Mournings.

Studio Cats

In addition to being an artist, and author, Renato loved his cats. While Renato painted cats of many shapes, sizes and colors, his studio cats were by his side fostering inspiration! To learn more about supporting animals in our community visit SFSPCA.
Photo by Laurie Frankel Desnuda como mi Cuba (Naked like my Cuba)

Photos of Renato by Laurie Frankel

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