“To be a surrealist . . . means barring from your mind all remembrance of what you have seen, and being always on the lookout for what has never been.”
A native of Washington Heights, NY, I am a self-taught visual artist who has recently emerged into the art community to fulfill my passion 40 years after having overcome many obstacles in pursuing my dream. The experience of being able to express myself through the creative arts has proven to be a vital resource in my life—in fact it has been more a matter of survival than accomplishment. From my first introduction to the Surrealist movement and psychology as a young adult, I immediately recognized the inherent therapeutic benefits within the creative process. It was then that I began my own journey toward personal growth by experimenting with various forms of artistic expression such as creative writing, poetry, photography, and collage.
As a second generation Latina-American, this immersion into the creative arts provided a vital outlet for me to express a variety of complex emotions—often stemming from the contradictory cultural clash between American and traditional Latino social values. Artists such as Lee Miller, Leonor Fini, Maya Deren, and Frida Kahlo greatly influenced my ability to overcome a stifling patriarchal upbringing and abusive relationship into creating an alternate reality for myself through my art and journal writing. Most importantly, however, the creative process enabled me to eventually cultivate a strong feminist self-identity.
The primary themes I explore in my artwork are closely connected to the exploration of authentic female identity and experience. It is my intent to present my work in a therapeutic capacity for achieving personal empowerment and transformation; especially for young Latina women. I want to inspire young women to create their own realities and experience rather than fitting into others’ expectations of how they should behave and express themselves—to confront themselves as human beings—not solely as women. Ultimately, it is my goal to utilize my art in an effort toward eradicating derogatory and one-dimensional images of female experience.
Often I am asked whether I have a preconceived image or concept in mind prior to putting together the elements for a collage. Interestingly enough, I would have to say no, as my initial instincts are more aesthetic rather than conceptual. I begin first with combining elements which I find complement each other whether through color, line, texture, or form. The sources for my pieces stem primarily from magazine images and digital photographs. Once I have a basic cohesive picture, I then scan the image and continue to make additional digitalized embellishments. It is not until I arrange all the elements that a concept suddenly emerges from which I then build upon. The process in itself is deeply rooted in connecting with my impulses and instincts, making the whole experience magical and intuitive rather than planned or contrived.
One of my works, Mozart’s Sister, speaks directly to my own personal struggles in defining myself as an artist. This collage is heavily inspired by the life story of Maria Anna Mozart, older sister to Wolfgang Amadeus. It is a known fact that Maria Anna Mozart was an equally gifted musician. However, cultural constraints prevented her talents from being nurtured and celebrated. Maria Anna Mozart was one of many women whose achievements have been forever hidden from the histories of civilization. Her story continues today to echo the same struggles many women face in having their creative visions realized. As a female artist I felt compelled to pay tribute to the glorious talents that might have flourished, had it not been for our foolish prejudices against female creativity.
In my former professional life, I had worked as an Executive Assistant at several non-profit, educational and publishing corporations—most notably as Assistant Editor at Ms. Magazine where I had the privilege of working alongside Gloria Steinem. However in 2007, I was forced into early retirement due to a debilitating medical condition. Now more than ever, the creative process has served me very well in overcoming the many challenges I’ve had to face as a result of my dramatic change in lifestyle.
Since 2011, I have had the honor to display my artwork in group exhibitions within Washington Heights through the Women in the Heights Exhibit sponsored by the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, the annual Art in the Garden Exhibit, and two events at the annual Hudson View Gardens Art Show. During the summer of 2012, I had the opportunity to participate in the Washington Heights Arts Stroll via a permanent showcase at Le Chéile Restaurant. My future endeavors include applying for an artist’s grant in collaboration with a fellow local artist for a project which highlights computerized digital imagery and three dimensional assemblage. I look forward to continuing my support and participation within the upper Manhattan visual arts community.