An Ode To Abuela

My greatest muses for art have always been the members of my family. I’ve noticed that my highest level of creativity and passion emulates the most when I’m creating work that either includes physical representations of my loved ones or when they are my subjects. This year, I chose to inquire about my Abuela’s life in particular, as she has been my biggest inspiration for art my entire childhood. As an artist herself who unfortunately had to decline a scholarship to art school when she was about my age, she has enlightened me with her talents for my whole life and taught me how to draw the second I was old enough to hold a pencil.

I knew that I wanted my final high school art portfolio to honor my Abuela for many reasons. Firstly, as her only granddaughter and her being the only grandparent with whom I was able to develop a very strong relationship, I’ve always felt connected to her. Even when I was a baby, I could always be found laying my head on her shoulder, forever finding comfort in the warmth and softness of her skin. I used to have frequent sleepovers at her apartment and my favorite pastime was flipping through a little black notebook where she would sketch actors and celebrities she was watching on T.V.. Other times she would help me illustrate a picture book I was writing, or paint me fairies that I would end up keeping in my room for years to come. 

To put it simply, my Abuela means everything to me, and recently, with her health declining severely in a very short amount of time, I’ve had to grapple with a whirlwind of emotions which I subsequently decided to channel through art. By collaging copies of old photographs I found in her apartment and transcribing the messages on the backs of these photographs onto larger ink pieces, I memorialized her life and her memories in my personal lens using color theory and liquid masking fluid. My journey with “frisk” as I like to call it, began last year when I first used it to draw patterns over layers of ink, and since then, it’s quickly become my favorite material to work with. I love that I am able to layer material over material and use the frisk to let moments of layers below shine through and give new meaning to my work. 

My sustained investigation centered around an inquiry into memories and the ways in which we can use texture, color, and layering to illustrate how memories make us feel and their strength, or lack thereof, in our minds. Towards the end of my process, another layer of the concept of memory was naturally added to my portfolio when my Abuela was diagnosed with Dementia and her health began to decline rapidly. With her new loss of memory and her inability to communicate with us for the most part, my art definitely altered, and my tumultuous emotions began to shine through in my work. Much of my art consists of collages, watercolor and graphite drawings of the photos I found, and experimentation with colored ink. On the days when I was most emotional about my Abuela’s state, I found it very cathartic to play with ink and let my emotions do the painting; I found that this way, everything I created was intentional, meaningful, and truthfully explained my current experience. It was my hope throughout this entire process to create a story of her life and memorialize her as a my grandmother and an artist herself, as she slowly remembers less about her own life.