SchoolArts Magazine

February 2018

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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SCHOOLARTSMAGAZINE.COM 23 Exploring Spiritualit and Ph sicalit A N G E L A A L É S CO N T E M P O R A R Y A R T I S T L O O K I N G & L E A R N I N G T he beautiful, lyrical paintings of Angela Alés are a unique combination of her Colombian heritage, the evolution of Colombian contemporary art, historical Surrealism, and ancient indigenous Colombian art. At the same time, her work transcends national borders and addresses deep personal reflections on self-identity and connection to personal history. Alés's paintings combine spirituality with physicality while exploring both. The physicality is expressed in images of the human form—primarily female—combined with cultural symbolism, a love of color, and abstract surfaces. Artistic Background Her fascinating journey as an artist began in Barran- quilla, a city in northern Colombia, where Alés was raised primarily by her mother and maternal grandpar- ents until she was eleven. Her childhood was rich in a rtistic influences with her dance-teacher mother (who also taught her how to draw); her grandfather, who was a lawyer and painter; and her grandmother, a textile artist who had actually taught her grandfather how to paint. When Alés was eleven years old, her mother remarried and the family moved to the US, which is when her artis- tic training began. She attended high school at the New World School of the Arts in Miami. In 1984, she obtained a degree from the Cooper Union for Advancement of Science and Art in New York City, and an MFA from the Miami International University of Art and Design. History, Surrealism, and the Human Figure Alés's work ties into the arc that has characterized most of the modernist art of Central and South America. The founding of the Escuela de Bellas Artes in 1886 in Bogotá—the same year as the founding of the Republic of Colombia—established an academic artistic tradition of history and religious painting grounded in European aca - demic styles that endured into the early 1900s. Progressive Colombian artists of the 1930s and 1940s looked to Europe to infuse Colombian art with modernist trends blended with indigenous Colombian art. A strong influence during that time was Surrealism. After the 1940s, abstraction heavily influenced Colombian modern - ism. After the 1960s, many Latin American artists turned t o the human figure. They saw figure painting as a way to express the widespread suffering of contemporary life, and, at the same time, express deeply personal imagery. Surrealism emphasizes the superiority of the spiri- tual or dream world. Alés's work is all that and much m ore. Her work is also grounded in the physicality of the smooth, ovoid, almond-eyed faces seen in Muisca (flour- ished 1000–1500s CE) sculpture, and Christian subject m atter gleaned from her grandmother. Top: Angela Alés with several of her works, including Dreamer (center), in Lowell, Massachusetts. Bottom: Teophilia, 2013. Oil on canvas. 20 x 20" (51 x 51 cm). Images courtesy of Angela Alés.

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