The couple in this photo are teacher and student. The photo was taken in the early 1950s. He looks like Salvador Dali with his pencil mustache, artsy beret, painter's smock and flamboyant tie. His lovely subject is dressed similarly and clutches a bouquet of paintbrushes. Their names are Hugo Martinez and Gisela Ballesteros and shortly after this photo was taken, they married. They have spent their lives in Bogotá, Colombia where they have dedicated themselves to the practice of art -- she as a painter and he as a sculptor.
Gisela is my husband's aunt, the younger sister of his father. My father-in-law has always supported his sister's talent and the family home in Illinois is chock full of Gisela's work. She has experimented with many different mediums and styles over the years. When you are lucky enough to be close to an artist, you have the an opportunity to sample their progression.
We too have many of Gisela's painting. I feel strongly about her depictions of traditional Colombian women out in the countryside, and I especially love her woodcuts.
Hugo works primarily in sculpture and is regarded as the first abstract geometric sculptor in Colombia. His female forms are voluptuous and muscular. He also works with paper and metal. His work has been shown in many exhibitions and can be seen in Bogotá in the National Museum and in public spaces.
One of Hugo's sculptures, La Huida (The Escape), depicts a mother protectively cradling her baby, (see below) and it has been adopted as a symbol of inspiration by the migrant relief organization Aidvolunteers. You can read more about it here.
My oldest son Nicholas is finishing up a Masters in Fine Art and tonight is his thesis show. On our family's trip to Colombia, we explored cloud forests, underground cathedrals, and pilgrimages perched on mountaintops, but Nicholas's favorite moment was climbing three flights of stairs to Gisela and Hugo's small midcentury-modern apartment. Inside was a trove of paintings, sculptures, and works in progress. Art covered nearly every bit of wall and shelf space. The tables were stacked with nicely organized little piles of drawings. It felt magical to be in such a space.
So tonight, as we celebrate one young artist's beginning, we shall cross our fingers and hope that he may find the wherewithall that Gisela and Hugo found -- to make good art with abandon and with passion, for years and years and years.
Thanks for reading! If you are an armchair traveler, you might like my original post about our trip to Bogota.
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