Born the fifth child, I was a part of a dynamic family of six. My mother and grandmother’s enjoyment of the world of crafts, and the influence of my father’s family interest in literature and writing created a stimulating world at home. My older siblings’ interactions and conversation on all sort of topics was very exciting to me from a young age. This environment developed in me much curiosity about everything that happens under the sun. My inclination to observe and ponder about the world around me, took a grip on me around the dining table. Since I was one of the youngest for a good while, and my verbal abilities were not at a par with those of my older brothers and sisters, I felt inadequate to comment the world with words, so a parallel world of images began to bubble inside of me, charged with great intensity. Thus, exposed to diverse forms of cultural expression ranging from Literature (through my aunt Rebecca –a freelance writer) engineering and technology (thorugh my father) and my mom’s interest in crafts and music, I learned to flow within multimedia early on, thus intertwined drama, poetry, dance, visual arts, science and other ideas.
At 10, I was drawing portraits of the people around me. Today, those drawings would remind me of Kokoshka’s prints. Expressing my feelings through the types of marks I utilized was very important to me. Later, this visual language would take other forms of expression, and within other visual contexts. I took formal painting lessons for the first time at 16, while I was attending high school, with a curriculum emphasis on math, chemistry, biology and physics.
Ana at 18
With this background, it was hard to find an art school that would integrate all those interests. So I was forced to provide myself with the type of art education I felt I needed, outside of regular art schools. But at 24, I joined Colorado State University while raising my first child Oton Jr. (the second one, Carlos, arrived 4 years later). I found the teachers were very stimulating as well as the art techniques they taught. During this time, I was exposed to Pop art in a particular way, as Andy Warhol, still alive at that time, held an art show and installation there. In those days, I was still thinking that Pop art was simply about being clever enough to make money under non artistic ideas that you would label as art. I was open to go as far as expressionism. Nevertheless, contemplating pop art’s proposals and ideas made an impression deep enough to leave me thinking.
It took me a couple of years of wrestling with the concept of having “mass culture” associated with high art, until I realized that if you observe art history carefully, you find that integrating contemporary culture is simply a part of art making through the centuries, although at a much lower pace. Art making that engages with its time becomes relevant, alive. I feel inclined to go as far as saying that unless contemporary art is engaged with its time the resulting work is more like a reliquary than art. And there is nothing wrong with reliquaries, but my heart is in art. Of course you could also object this statement by saying that today’s art is in a way like a compounded summary of history, encapsulated in today, and with a germ of tomorrow. I agree. Yet my personal need to breathe in today’s culture, rooted in history, in order to acknowledge myself as alive and living, has permeated all aspects of my life, including my philosophy of philanthropy and service.
I had been married for about seven years, when the marriage dynamics and expectations conflicted with who I am, including my artistic need of expression. This led me to a “dry” creative period, until I broke off in 1985, giving birth to the most freeing explorative and experimental phase of my life yet. By this time, I had fully embraced conceptual art and some aspects of pop art which led me to explore public art in the making of it. It was partly the concepts, and partly my love for large scale. It was exhilarating to visualize huge spaces and scale. (This is why I love Chicago’s cityscape!)
It was around that time also that I met composer Arturo Rodas. Our creative souls fused into each other and he ended writing music that made reference to paintings or color, while I ended up exploring and crossing over the frontiers of space and time. My intention was to assign time to two-dimensional work, time as inherent to music, so that the emotional engagement between the work of art and the viewer would involve more of a journey, such as it happens in music. In Guilli Gu, public art, conceptual art, collaboration, object as art, installation and multimedia converged, alongside with technical media exploration. Stylistically, the imagery moves from minimal, through op, expressionism and art-deco with an underlying reminiscence of Christo, under the spell of Carl Sagan’s writings and Olivier Messiaen’s music. I call this piece neo-conceptual, because its conceptual roots stem indirectly from traditional conceptual art, yet it could also be understood within what I call neo-realism because, although not figurative in its imagery, the work does make reference to real processes in life, utilizing non objective imagery. I continued to explore the merging of space and time through the creation of visual sequences, which captured, as it were, a fragment of a non objective process. Other than Guilli Gu, I also had Guilli Ga, Black and wine, It is there you just need to pull it forward, The birth, life and death of humming birth (my homage to Olivier Messian,) etc.
Travelling to London with a British Council Scholarship to do a Postgraduate in fine arts, 1989.
In 1989, I won a British Council Scholarship to attend Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design in London and earned a postgraduate degree in Fine Arts Painting, followed by studies in Print Making and Public Art. One of the pieces that brought me much satisfaction at that time was Closed for Reburbishment. We apologize for any inconvenience caused to the public.. This is a piece etched on 11 sheets of zinc. This piece came to being as I was making reference to numerous historical buildings which were under “refurbishment” when I first arrived in London. The scaffoldings, the large plastic protective nets, the dust, etc, were represented through the messy but really expressive unfinished look of a an inked, printmaking sheet of etched metal. While doing the latter of these studies, I decided to engage in entrepreneurial arts development projects which ended into two major multi arts festivals, Latin America Ya! -1993 and Latin American Performing Arts Festival in 1994.
America Ya! Arts Festival, London, 1993.
All this activity strained our relationship with composer Rodas, separating between the end of 1992 and early 93. Coincidentally, around that same time, I was unknowingly exposed to strong pesticides in my apartment, which led me to a prostrating chronic condition which lasted for several years. Having all the time to think and my body disabled led me to explore spirituality from a Jewish-Christian perspective. Subsequently, this led me to enjoy a very fulfilling mystical experience. Through my chronic fatigue journey, I was able to enter as it were into the beauty of God. It felt like a climatic point in my life long search for intense energizing stimuli. Beauty and “shalom” found a deep form of fulfillment in the way I experienced God.
Hispanic Achievement Award
A few years later, in 1998, I joined Andrews Theological Seminary in Michigan, graduating in 2003. Here I bumped into Hebrew language, the concept of community, rituals, and other traditions which exercise a strong attraction to me. I am particulalry interested in exploring the associations between the content and imagery of written Hebrew, its sounds, and the echoes of ancient meanings in them in my art.
Receiving the Vladimir Dimitrov Prize
From the Christian side of my religious experience, I find the hardest to cohabit with religious stereotypes that tend to cling to “spiritual reliquaries” instead of seeking for the contemporary, life giving and energizing forms of spirituality and relevance. Yet I continue to value the regenerating “shalom” of my spiritual journey. At the time of writing this bio, I have arrived at a place where I need to integrate my aesthetic experiences found both in mysticism, ancient Hebrew roots and art making . . . I am alive!