Saturday, November 13, 2010

...when time flies

...I have heard it said that when you feel that time has "flown by" do not age for that period of time in your life.

It is about living in joy and living in the moment.

Well last night must not count for us in terms of time passing...for we had so much fun in the studio with our dearest friend Angie... that though we started chatting, painting (& drinking) in the studio at 6:30 pm... nobody noticed the passing of time- until it was 4am!

We left behind this awful mess

Today, with only three hours of sleep..we feel energized and happy!

I was able to finally resolve my Mermaid painting (started over a year ago)-- The painting is about 4 x4 feet and I finished it with oils and encaustics....

Here you can see some of the beaded wax on the tails of the mermaid and her merchildWe had a fantastic time- and only wish we could enjoy our lives making art full time every single day of the year (hear that universe? that is my wish!)

Monday, November 8, 2010's all about beeswax now

We are having so much fun playing with wax.... a medium that is one of the world's most ancient and archival painting mediums, predating oil paint-the Fayum portraits from Grego-Roman Egypt, circa 100 200 A.D., have survived through the centuries.

However, painting with wax, better known as Encaustics was a lost art until Jasper Johns brought it back from obscurity in 1954, exposing it to a new generation of artists.

The fact that I am now as obsessed with encaustic paints as Sergio always has been has come at a complete surprise to me.

After all, I have been watching him work with wax in our studio for the last 5 years... but suddenly, I too am in love with this soft pile of molten beeswax and damar resin.

It is also appealing to be working with encaustics now that the weather is getting cooler.

We fire up the woodstove and melt our wax paints right on our stove.
Here are some images of pieces finished this past weekend, waiting for frames

It seems so right to be working with paints made of a natural medium (we just bought 25 lbs of beeswax from a beekeeper in the area) and to be using our studio's source of heat to help us paint. Sergio painting one of his large pieces (here he is using acrylic paints mixed with sand)

Additionally, the process is much more immediate than the usual oils I work with, the wax dries within seconds. It is also more

forgiving, if I am happy with my results, I take the blow torch and melt it into our coffee can of "brown in the making."
The process is very tactile, and sultry.The wax is soft and pliable...versatile beyond belief (though I am still very much at the starting line for understanding how to utilize it with my figurative pieces).

For now, I am having fun making small pieces while I play with texture, scraping into the wax,
embedding objects into it, embossing it with Chinese paper,drawing into it with oil sticks and seems like there are endless possibilities for fun creations!

Our studio is now a much 'messier' place and my need to have everything in its place has to be ignored for at least a few hours. We are blessed with a large space, but when we are in there working it gets claustrophobic with all of the materials we pull out and get crazy having fun with!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

playing it safe with art.....

I have been doing a lot of research in regards to safe practices with encaustics.
A few months ago I had stopped using Turpenoids (odorless turpentine) because I found that even that is toxic. I began to use Gamsol, a much safer and non transdermal medium for oil paints.

However, Sergio's encaustics remained a problem. Luckily, after the workshop we took last week (see previous post) he realized that there are safe ways to utilize the medium he loves.

So, whereas in the past he would concoct a very toxic mix of Beeswax, Damar Varnish and Turpentine, we have now purchased Damar Crystals (straight from the tree, no chemicals) and will soon order encaustic paints. We plan also to mix some traditional oil paints in with the beeswwax, but still, this is not nearly as toxic as "Sergio's Way" (!)

I have also found out how insanely toxic it is to use most dry pigments with my bare hands. Something I have done in the past. I knew that one of the colors I used was indeed Cyanide, but this was before I realized how vulnerable we are to chemicals via our skin.

I can think of too many times where I painted with my hands full of turps and pigment *ugh*

Well, now, as you can see from this photo, we are changing our "ways".

Next, we plan to add an exhaust fan to our studio, we are looking at a "hood" type fan that we can place close to our encaustic table. I found great information on this site.

I hope this may help some of you out there who work in oils & encaustics.,,, and of course: if you have any hints to help our readers, please post a comment below!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

...our love & life together...5 years!

Five years ago Sergio and I were married our studio.
I never thought I would get married, much less to a fellow painter.

But, we fell in love...and "all of a sudden" getting married seemed like such a romantic notion! A white dress, handcrafted wedding rings designed by ourselves... and a beautiful candle ceremony was celebrated in our studio.

Everything was arranged only 3 weeks before the event (thanks to the help of my wonderful Aunt Veronica!).
This year we celebrated as we always do: with champagne, fine wine and good our studio.

There a pros and cons to marrying a fellow artist... but, one of the biggest "pros" is that we LOVE spending time together in the studio.

As an anniversary gift, I registered Sergio and I in an all day encaustic workshop. He cried when I gave him the confirmation letter from our local art center.
We had so much fun making art together.

It was a workshop of only 6 participants... myself being the only one who was not an encaustic painter.... it was fantastic to see the twinkle in Sergio's eyes as he moved the beeswax back and forth.

Our other gift: tickets to the Opera... paled in comparison to a day spent together making art!

Here are our encaustic pieces made at the workshop


Sergio gave me a Natural Healing Foods recipe book .... and I was amazed at what I think is what defines a good relationship: thinking one of the other.
HE is not into the same food I am into...and I am not an encaustic painter-- yet he knows I love raw foods, I know he loves encaustics--- what a wonderful way to celebrate our dedication to one another: by supporting and acknowledging our separate interests-as such, we are able to share and enrich one another's lives!

Celebrate the differences you have with those you love: and in that, find adventure, passion and unity!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Exhibiting at the Biggs Museum of American Art

Sergio and I are exhibting at The Biggs Museum of American Art this month.
The name of the exhibit is Visions of Dignity
Dates are September 15 – October 15, 2010

From their website
Please join us at the Biggs Museum of American Art as we kick off Hispanic Heritage Month with the Visions of Dignity public reception on September 15, 2010. At the same time, Visions of Dignity artists create windows to see into their own cultural origins. Visions of Dignity invited artists to participate who identify as Latin American or U.S. Latino, including those artists from Spanish, Portuguese, French and English speaking countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, living or working in the State of Delaware and the Mid-Atlantic Region.
This rare opportunity brings together the Museum’s audiences with noted Hispanic artists from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region."

Monday, August 16, 2010

Delaware Art Exhibit, Claudia Olivos and Sergio OlivosM

A few days ago, Sergio and I received an invitation to exhibit our work in a Museum in Delaware.

Sergio will be exhibiting three of his wonderful encaustics , and I will be exhibiting two of my colorful abstracted pieces including one of Sergio's favorite's A Demon in my Beautiful life.

Also, as many of you know...this year we will be in process of many things for our future.

A year ago we decided to greatly scale back from our studio classes to focus more on our work... this year, we continue with that aim.

We are looking to both New Mexico and New York as places that would be ideal for our art. We are at this time simply trusting that the universe will conspire with us as we pursue our dreams..thank you so much for sharing in the journey!

And last but not least... as we feel the tugging of Autumn at the feet of summer...we begin to think of our big Open Studio in december...yes, we know it is early: but please make a note in your calendar and come and visit us for an ART-FULL evening of fun and cheeer on December 4-we love to see all our friends here for our anual pARTy!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The art of teaching!

July and August are busy teaching months for us.
In the studio, we are busy with a very small group of very talented young artists.
Each Monday we visit a local museum, and the rest of the week they set to task creating their own masterpiece.

This week, we visited the NGA to see Impressionist pieces from the Chester Dale collection.
In the studio our students work with pencils, chalk pastels, oil pastels and finally acrylic on canvas.

Our youngest student is 6 years old.

At the end of the week, we transform our studio into a mini gallery for our participants, they and their parents are always so is a great feeling to know we made an impact on the life of a young artist!

Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.
~Jacques Barzun

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

miscarriage, an unrealized dream

Three years ago, Sergio and I lost a baby. I was 3 and a half months pregnant and I had a miscarriage.

Sergio and I had discussed having another child ...Julian was already in middle school.... thinking of having another baby was both exciting and frightening (financially).

However, we decided to give it a go.

It soon became our dream.

I believe deeply in setting intentions and that if you have a desire to achieve or have something manifest in your life, your dreams move along a continuum and then become. I have seen this come to pass in many areas of our lives.

However, no matter how much I desired/set intention for and imagined our new baby, when she finally came to us, she did not stay with us for long.

It took me two years to come to terms with the fact that perhaps our baby was not meant to join us, at least not in this lifetime.

Curiously enough, two weeks ago in Chile, as I looked at a pair of beautiful silver earrings, the Mapuche woman selling them approached me and told me that they were perfect for me.
I asked her what the symbols on them meant, and without knowing anything about me she said they represented my relationship with my spouse (how did she know I was married? I wasn't wearing a wedding band?)...and she said that the two pieces dangling at the bottom represented my children--my earth child (Julian) and my cosmic child. I asked her what she meant by "cosmic child"..and she said it is my child who is still "out there" and whom I may not meet until another lifetime.


I have no idea how she knew I was married, had a son...and a "cosmic child". I am to understand that sometimes our dreams don't manifest as we expect them to. In any case... I do believe that the baby that did not grow in my belly is "out there somewhere"....I have always believed so, and I have always believed that little soul is a girl.
My cosmic child.

At the time of the miscarriage, when we shared the news with some family/friends, the response was not at all supportive.
"You were not that far along".... or simply "you can try again".
My mother dismissed me entirely when I told her, told me it "could have been a heavy period" and perhaps the doctor was wrong. It was painful.
Nobody seemed to give a second thought to this little baby that was gone.

But we had celebrated her for three months. We had hoped, we had dreamed.... we had planned her her room, we had imagined her dark curls like Sergio's, my freckles.... our brown eyes.
We had dreamed.

Even now, I think of our baby each time I hear of someone getting pregnant..or when someones baby does not come forth into our world.

I have heard it said that every soul that comes into this world comes here with a very specific mission. When that mission is completed, the soul can leave. 
The holiest of souls need so little time here in this world that some never even make it outside the womb

So this little post today is dedicated to our dear little baby-who stayed with us for only a short while...three years ago this month..the little soul went into 'the cosmos'.....
I look forward to meeting you someday.
Te amo...I love you.

tu mami

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The story: my "disappeared" paintings in Mexico

La Ilusion

Five Years ago I was invited to exhibit my work in a prestigeous art museum in Queretaro, Mexico: Museo Regional de Queretaro. I was thrilled to be exhibiting not only in a museum for the first time, but in Mexico-a country I have always loved since I was little and took many vacations there with my father.
I was ecstatic!

I felt honored and thought of this land I have grown so very fond of, especially after my father's death: he LOVED Mexico too!

The exhibit was organized by SOMAAP Queretaro, and organization similar to the USA's NEA. The exhibit was also auspiced by the University of Queretaro, where I (along with four other Washington DC based artists) were scheduled to lecture about our work, and about our experience working as a Latin American visual artists in the USA.

this is the one piece I miss the is about the first time that my son left for an overnight visit with 'the ex'

I shipped my 7 pieces to Queretaro on February 22, 2005, and I was notified that my paintings arrived in Toluca on March 1st. I dearly love all my work...but artists always have favorites...and these were some of mine. I was glad to know they had "landed" where they were intended to go.

However, as soon as I arrived in Mexico a few days later, I was informed by the SOMAAP organizer in charge of the exhibit that customs was refusing to release my work to the Museum for reasons which I was not privy to. I was not able to get in touch with customs.

I felt so helpless.

The organizers advised me that they would handle the case and help me retrieve my work- I was warned that getting involved with the authorities as a foreigner was not a good idea... though I felt compelled to "do something"....
I knew not what, and the organizers, SOMAAP asked me for the "factura" (Fed Ex receipt), which I handed over; I was assured they would take care of the "problem".

La mentira

Soon there after, I was informed that Customs was demanding money which it should not be asking for as the pieces were intended for a museum rather than a gallery exhibit (for a museum exhibit they would not be for sale, in a gallery setting they would-so it makes a difference tax-wise).
The only 'real' infraction they were reporting was that I had misrepresented my shipment by labeling it '5 pieces' instead of 7 (my mistake: as one is a triptych). I was told to stay calm, that the situation would be resolved in time for the Museum's opening night.
I was a bit nervous, but I had faith.

La mordida. 

Customs never allowed the pieces to be released for the exhibit
. At opening night this most beautiful museum--my paintings were projected on the wall (via my website) and I stood there and spoke about them with longing. Everyone applauded as they heard about their "imprisonment" in Toluca. I felt encouraged that they may be released before the exhibit ended-I had so much support from both the Museum, University, and SOMAAP.

Time was running out, and SOMAAP and its representatives (including a "customs agency" hired by SOMAAP to 'take care of the problem': Prida Bravo)- advised that the pieces be shipped back to the USA as customs was not releasing them in Mexico.

This was a difficult thing to know: they would never see the light in Mexico..but I was ready to have them home.

Problem: Customs officials informed us that if I wanted the work to be shipped back to the USA- they were going to fine me and charge me 'storage fees' in the excess of $1,000.-

Unbelievable! They did not allow the work to be released, held it while we tried to find a solution, then when we ask it be sent back..they decide to fine me! It made no sense to me..and as an idealist, I was saddened yet believed that things would/could work out!

La locura
I was never given an explanation as to why my pieces had been detained in the first place .... at first, I refused to pay. I was indignant at the injustice; however, after a few days I relented and inquired about how much I owed exactly so that I could pay ("storage fees" were increasing by the minute I had been informed).

They responded (via Prida Bravo-the private 'customs go between')that a credit card would not be acceptable. They wanted my checking account number, including routing number...then and only after I gave them the information, they would give me the total amount due and they would withdraw the money from my account at their convenience (!).


Instead, the following weekend I flew to Mexico to meet with members of SOMAAP who agreed to help me only if I joined the organization as a member: I had to swear to never share this fiasco with anyone. I remember walking out of their office and feeling like this was all a mysterious "mafia' like setting. I was in their office, they took photos, they were stern and serious and had lawyers present. I remember the relief I felt when stepping out of the building and encountering the typical stand of 'fresh mangoes' in a bag stand. I ate heartily and vowed to not allow this to break my love for Mexico. Things, were 'moving along' in a very strange way.

In the meeting with SOMAAP, I was told that I should be prepared to fly back to Mexico to pay at any moment. Since I was not free to travel (I was a single mom at the time), I wrote a blank check to my Mexican friend (now my husband), and left it with him.
Prida Bravo (the customs agency) soon stopped responding to my e-mails, and SOMAAP had an attorney contact me who soon withdrew when he realized SOMAAP themselves were responsible for the loss of my art.
Bcak in the USA.. I continued to try to resolve the matter without involving the USA...I wanted to be a 'good guest' to this country I love so much. Thus, I contacted the Mexican consulate here in Washington DC, and after a few phone calls, I was invited to the Cultural Institute for a meeting with the conusl. I was then told that I would put SOMAAP's financial support in jeopardy if they were to get involved; they would not be party to it.

I understood then: I was on my own.

SOMAAP informally contacted me to advise me to 'drop my efforts' to locate my work. And, in July, a SOMAAP representative informed me that my pieces had been declared as abandoned on May 10th.
I was devastated.

I was told, that my paintings were going to be destroyed, or auctioned of.

The destruction of artwork in and of itself, goes against Mexican law, which protects artwork -- nobody is allowed to destroy artwork: there are laws "Rights of Patrimony", and the "Ley de Seguimiento' (where the artist has a right to know where the piece is, who has it, etc) but none of that seemed to matter in my case.


Although I began my effort to rescue my work in Mexico and with Mexican authorities as I never wanted to seem like the 'bad gringa' (bringing in the USA to help)... once I heard they had been declared "abandoned", I began to move stateside.

I believe the media ar a huge power in our society, so... I contacted The Washington Post. They were interested in the story *but* they suggested I fly down to Mexico and confront customs in person. I was not able to acquiesce to the request, as I would be unable to leave for an extended period of time due to my duties as a mommy...and my work.
A year had passed. I contacted the State Department. It was amazing how quickly (within hours) I had a response from them. Soon, the State Department had enlisted the help of the American Embassy in Mexico city.
I was relieved. It felt as though finally, my paintings would arrive at my door again.

Alas, I was wrong. The Mexican government-customs in Toluca-claimed they had never seen, heard, nor had my paintings. Aaargh! I could not believe it! I was helpless. It was hopeless.

I was told there was nothing more to be done. I cried.And cried.
I have missed my paintings all of these years, there were some very sentimental pieces included in the lot. Some that I never meant to sell, this is why I sent them to a museum rather than a gallery exhibit.
I often tried to envision the huge wooden box leaning on our front deck...paintings intact.

El principio del Final: Revelation

Five days ago, I received an email.
It said:

"Claudia Olivos,
I wanted to inform you that I purchased your 7 paintings which were sold at a government auction-customs in Toluca".

Yes. The government lied.
They probably wanted a big "mordida"...then different people and organizations and who knows who and why others got involved who did not want to get involved....and finally-time passed, they decided to sell them.

I was shocked when I read the email. I am sad that a couple of those pieces-which I never meant to sell...I will never have again. (of course: I cried).
I am sad that people lie.

But, I am SO happy that the pieces are in good hands. For that, my tears are of joy.
I am so thankful that they are in the hands of someone who was nice enough to contact me and let me know of their new home.
He has even let me know he plans to have them exhibited at local museums in Mexico.

These paintings have a history, and they have stories to tell....
 so this is just the beginning for the rest of their lives.