Also remarkable is that the Cuban government seems willing to tolerate art that could be interpreted as critical of it. Barroso, for example, is working on a woodcut of a tablet computer. It obviously doesn't work, but the "apps" on the wooden machine are all related to emigrating from Cuba.
Barroso makes many woodcuts of communication devices. He calls the work an "ironic" commentary on technology. When asked if it's a criticism of the government—given that most Cubans don't have a cellphone or access to the Internet—he responds, "How it's interpreted is up to the viewer."
Besides landscapes, Delgado has created a series of large-format paintings that depict fake magazine covers. He said he was inspired by Norman Rockwell, famous for painting real magazine covers that portray an idyllic American life.
One of Delgado's magazine cover paintings shows people preparing to jump over the malecon—the famous seawall in Havana—in inner tubes. It's a scene repeated by thousands of Cubans who, desperate to leave, took to the open ocean.
When asked if the painting is intended as a criticism of the government, Delgado said no, adding that "it talks about the troubles of Cuba."
"It's normal for all the Cubans to have this constant on our minds," he said. For a Cuban, the sea means "one way to take his dreams out there, the American dream," he added. "It's a reflection of ... how many people take this option, you know? For finding a way, you know?"
—By CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera
Editor's note: Michelle Caruso-Cabrera owns works of Dionel Delgado, among works of several other Cuban artists.