The Universal Language of Art

Malibu art collectors Allan Dinkoff and Roseanna DeMaria (left) invited celebrated Cuban artists Marlys Fuego and William Pérez to their Malibu home after they bought one of Pérez’s pieces during a visit to Cuba.

Art comes when you dig deep. Sometimes it needs a shovel, like the one found by Malibu collectors Allan Dinkoff and Roseanna DeMaria.

During a cultural exchange visit to Cuba last March (before the easing of relations between the two countries), Dinkoff and DeMaria visited the studio of artists William Pérez and Marlys Fuego.

“Allan was in another part of the studio when William told me the shovel was from his garden,” DeMaria said, “and that his father had told him he had to have a heart of iron, but he had the heart of an artist, a heart of flowers. William’s artistic journey took him to a place where he learned that just as a shovel has to break hard ground to release the flowers, he had to do that with his art and created the shovel.”

Unbeknown to his wife, Dinkoff bought the shovel for her, and it works perfectly with all the other pieces in their Malibu home. The couple moved here from New York after Dinkoff was appointed head of employment law at Amgen, a biotech company based in Thousand Oaks. DeMaria joined corporate America after 14 years as a prosecutor, then started her own practice as a business consultant.

Their home is filled with wonderful works they have collected over the years, which are mostly modern and folk art, including pieces by Daniel Mack and Angeleno artist Ron Pippin. They are not overly careful about their collection and sit happily on rustic Mack chairs.

Naturally, Dinkoff and DeMaria played host to their new Cuban friends when Pérez, an acclaimed and highly collectible artist, was brought to Los Angeles by Stuart Ashman, president and CEO of the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach to install a massive piece he made for the museum’s entrance: a cast-aluminum rhino.

Fuego was happy to take a back seat to her husband on this trip and is proud of his success as he is of hers. Pérez doesn’t speak English, so Fuego interpreted for him:

“We create what we feel. We enjoy art. It’s very spiritual for us. We make art for ourselves, not others. We know how lucky we are to be able to live the life of artists.”

Pérez  and Fuego have separate areas in their studio — which has a constant stream of visitors from around the world — to create and exhibit. Prices are set by the galleries with whom they work. From their studio, they sell more to students and local art lovers who can’t afford top dollar. The range is about $300 for a drawing up to $20,000 for a major piece.

Pérez and Fuego have enjoyed their stay in Malibu.

“It’s such a great place. Like a fairytale,” Fuego said. “Being here has given us energy to get back to work.”

Her husband smiled and nodded in agreement. 

An exhibition of William Pérez’s work runs through October at SaltFineArt in Laguna Beach. For more information, visit