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Cuban Cars Drive into the Spotlight at Chelsea Gallery

By DNAinfo Staff on March 2, 2011 6:18pm  | Updated on March 3, 2011 1:11pm

By Tara Kyle

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

CHELSEA — Ordinarily, 76-year-old Sara Petitt doesn't care much for cars — but last year in Cuba, she spent hour after hour standing at intersections, photographing one candy-colored, pre-Castro era vehicle after another.

The electric blue, cherry red and acid green hues of many of these cars captured the imagination of the Brooklyn-born Pettit. At times, driving through the countryside with her husband, she'd even yell at him to put on the brakes so she didn't miss out on a particularly striking vehicle.

"I just thought the cars were such a tribute to the ingenuity of the Cuban people…they look almost like jewels," she said. "They paint and care for them as though they were children."

Beginning Thursday night, a selection of Petitt's photos, captured during 2010 journeys to Cuba and India, will be on view at Gallery 307, a space operated by the Carter Burden Center for the Aging.

In addition to Cuba's cars, the exhibit features street scenes in Havana, musicians in smaller villages, and women in the dessert of India's northern state of Rajasthan.

For Petitt, a former corporate textile designer who now coordinates the Fashion Institute of Technology's fabric styling programs, the show is a way of getting back to her roots.

As a young woman in her 20s, Petitt exhibited professionally, but she gave it up in her 30s in order to better support herself. That's an experience that she believes is common among young women.

"Unless you're extraordinarily motivated or have a private income, you kind of let go of art," she said.

It's only in the past few years that Petitt said she has treated photography as a profession again.

She is one of only a very small number of artists to score a show at the Gallery 307, which received between 300-400 submissions from senior citizens in the past year, according to gallery director Marlena Vaccaro.

"I'm so lucky to be an older artist. Creative people are so fortunate, because you never have to retire," Petitt said. "It's very hard to take a good picture — I'm doing it because I feel alive when I do it."

"Sara Petitt, Photographs: Cuba and India 2010" will run through March 24 at the Gallery 307, located on the 14th floor of 307 Seventh Avenue.