Reflections on the art of Carla Veliz, featured in the Instituto Cultural de México’s “Remarkable Paradigms” exhibit for International Women’s Month.
Staring at Carla Veliz’s Los Cantores, I swoon with the rhythms implied in its curves and undulating lines. I yearn to tap my feet in unison with the festive percussion of a geometrically rendered pineapple pattern in the background. I am inspired by the pair of lovers interlaced and framed within the voluptuous and fiery heart of a Latina, represented by a ruby mane shaped like a corazón. The two dance and jointly hold a malleable guitar as their figures intertwine indistinguishably. Who is strumming? Who is playing? Who is watching? None of it matters as the cantores fuse into one kaleidoscopic being, two Latinos singing, dancing and loving as one vivid manifestation of culture and passion.
I sit in another room, and yet again I cannot help but stare, fighting back my strict, traditional upbringing. My eyes open wide as a fascinated child’s, absorbing a vast landscape of muted tones, ochers and browns, rust and hints of the pale blue sky of yet another in a seemingly endless series of melancholically squandered afternoons fading into dusk. A swath of tattered screen spanning the vertical length of the canvas transports me to moments trapped behind a closed porch door, listening to the adults converse outside and yearning to be heard. The words grooved onto the canvas – “Tenia tanto que decir, pero nadie me escuchaba” – lament the unrequited desire for expression, for acknowledgement, for validation. “I had so much to say, but no one would listen.”
They say it’s not polite to stare, but in this case it’s okay because in studying Carla Veliz’s works of art you are taking a long, hard look at your self. Her works speak directly to the diverse soul of Latino culture: capturing a dazzling range of emotions and imagery, from figurative to abstract, from celebration to sorrow, from longing to loss, from shimmering beauty to foreboding darkness. But in her ambitious artistic odyssey, something magical happens amidst swirls of paint, explosions of wax and fragments of found objects colliding and fusing: Carla Veliz transcends her roots and her context. She taps into currents that run universally through all of us. Love, danger, joy, tragedy – at times surely experienced as a Latina raised along the US-Mexico border, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend – are presented in such a way through Carla’s paintings that we are reminded that the common truths that bind us together outweigh the nuances which render us unique.