My earliest memory of realizing I might have a gift for art was in first grade when my teacher was showing the class the paintings. My childhood in Evanston, Illinois was made up of memories of making art at home when I became bored and needing to find something to do, and in class when I found myself drifting and needing to occupy my hands in order to focus on what the teacher was saying. One of the things I loved to do most was to draw with a black ballpoint pen, create a solid organic shape and then fill the entire page leaving only a sliver of a white line around each shape, creating an all over-pattern. Eventually, this became a major compositional choice for me in my work.
As I continued to make art, others began to recognize my aptitude for it. With encouragement from my parents, I went on to study painting at DePaul University in Chicago, where I received a BA in Painting and Spanish. During my studies there I was awarded a scholarship for an independent study in figure painting, at the Art Institute of Chicago. It was at this time that I gained intimate knowledge of the modern art collection at the Art Institute of Chicago and really learned how to look at paintings. My favorites, which remain close to my ethos today are Cezanne, Monet, O’Keefe and Rothko.
One of the most unique features of my undergraduate studies program at DePaul was a course in mural painting techniques, so as a student I was lucky enough to execute two murals. One was for the Cultural Center which consisted of three large panels filled with masks that were faces of diverse cultures, appropriated from Art History. The masks ran along a DNA strand which wove itself through the Chicago Skyline, representing the diversity of DePaul’s student body. The other was a large wall which celebrated DePaul’s Centennial. In analogous colors of yellow, yellow-orange and orange I painted a facade of a church, representing DePaul’s Vincentian foundation. Overlaid in a Kieferesque manner was a field that vanished to one point, which led your eye to a stain glass window, filled with different symbols of education. After graduation I was employed with the Chicago Artist Coalition, where I worked on several projects. I also was commissioned for some independent murals including a 100’ long underwater scene which I painted at the YMCA in hometown. The experience of mural painting shaped the direction of my future work in that the scale of large scale-painting became an important factor in its demand for a body-to-body experience.
The impact my family has had on my art is still playing out. My parents are immigrants. My mother’s from Barranquilla, Colombia and my father’s from Kiel, Germany. Fluent in German and conversational in Spanish, we’ve traveled to both countries and visited their world-class museums which critically informed my art by exposing me to artists of my own heritage and expanding my artistic influences beyond my American ones. I also lived in Bonn, Germany for six months in 1992. This exposed me to my Romantic disposition in my Germanic roots, and I became drawn to artists like Caspar David Friedrich. Friedrich represented a break from classical artists who sought to mimic the world they saw in a naturalist or realistic manner. Instead, he sought a reunion with the spiritual self through the contemplation of nature. Friedrich said, “The artist should not only paint what he sees before him, but what he sees within him.”
After graduating from DePaul in 1997, I spent three months living with my extended family in Uruguay, South America. My Uruguayan Aunt, who is also an artist, has a studio in her backyard. I spent everyday making art with her when I wasn’t working alone. I also went and worked in an a collective artist studio that included discussions of art. It was through this experience that my love for Pre-Columbian art came to fruition. Particularly, I was interested in how these early 15-16th century cultures did not have writing systems, so visual art expressed cosmologies, world views, religion, and philosophy as well as serving as mnenomic devices. These kinds of investigations have become a part of my search for a contemporary visual language.
I came back to the states in 1998, and enrolled in MFA in Painting from the University of Washington in Seattle. That program helped me turn my concept of art upside down. I began to empty narrative and embrace abstraction. The change was organic and occurred concurrently with the beginning of my Buddhist practice.
The form and concept of my work are born and created simultaneously. In the particular Buddhist lineage I was engaged with at that time, my process involved chanting practice. One day while walking and chanting I noticed the beautiful rhythm of the shadows of trees on the sidewalk. So I took a roll of paper and ink with me on my walks and began tracing the tree shadows while I chanted. Integrating breath with the movement of my body, I captured the essence of a Buddhist notion of Esho-Funi- body and environment as one. This concept remains at the core of my work. Nature, specifically trees, remain a constant source of inspiration for me today.
After graduating with an MFA in Painting, I worked extensively in Arts Education, teaching at the Kirkland Arts Center, Pratt Fine Arts Center and Seattle University. During this eleven year period, I recognized (again through my Buddhist practice) the importance of nonviolent communication and emotional intelligence. This led me to the exploration of the contemplative tradition of Vipassana meditation, within the Therevadan Buddhist Lineage. Through formal meditation, I have expanded my experience of practicing non-judgmental presence, which has extended into to my creative process, where it’s still percolating. So I’m working with that now.
I exhibit my work at IMA Gallery in Seattle and SFMOMA Gallery in San Francisco and Exhibit 208 in Albuquerque, NM. I currently live in Albuquerque, where I work as a full-time artist from my home studio.