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From the Studio: Katia Santibañez

From Katia Santibañez:

Since 2006, my husband James Siena and I have been living between New York City and Otis, MA. Our house, built in 1810, is a treasure with lots of rooms filled with books, musical instruments, one exquisite room decorated with a unique French wallpaper from 1818, and our small studios.

I spent the whole day on Friday, March 13 continuing work on a painting in my studio in the Bronx, which I've been re-visiting over the last week here in Otis.

We arrived in Otis late evening that day, not knowing that we would stay in MA for an unknown amount of time. This world wide crisis is devastating, and I feel very lucky to be able to have this house.

I worried about the world, my friends, and family in New York City, France, Italy, and Spain; a few of them are at the front lines. If governments were not prepared for a pandemic, we were not either.

In our very modest “studios,” after our arrival, we found the minimum of materials. I discovered in a box: four scraps of canvas big enough to make four paintings, 42 x 21 inches, and some paint; yellows, black, some brushes, a few sheets of paper, two jars of inks: blue and red.

In Otis, I replaced my morning swim with a walk with James. Along the road, trees which have been my muse for over forty five years, are filling up my mind, my feelings. I decided to hug a tree at the end of each walk; you cannot hug many people these days! Trees have become my confidants.

I am now, more than ever, connecting to the sounds of frogs, birds, and waterfalls. I love the spring season, when nature is telling us she is alive and she is waking up; the grass is getting greener, flowers are slowly blooming.

In the studio, I have difficulty concentrating, but making art is keeping me sane, and the relationship I have with Nature is keeping me grounded. I have been thinking about Henry David Thoreau, when he wrote Walden. Crisis and constraints are difficult, but necessary for artists.

I am continuing to explore the structure of natural elements; the trees and the spiral, the grid has been distorted. My passion for colors has been on the rise, and bringing light to my paintings has been essential.

My mind brings me back to a few memories; a visit to the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris in January 2020, and to the Sagrada Família in Barcelona. I have a profound admiration for Gaudí. When I walk in the morning and look at the forest, I feel like I am entering a cathedral. The structure of the trees is replacing the columns, and the light between the branches is replacing the stained glass windows.

Since 2012, I have been exploring the spiral.

After a trip in the South of France, I started to collect shells, bark, and other natural objects. Over the past few years, I have been looking at photographs of tornadoes, spiral galaxies, staircases, and also thinking about how the word spiral is used in economics, psychology and so on.

Drawing is an important tool in my practice, a way of letting ideas developing and move forward.

Beside making art, we had two studio visits by students from Columbia University and Princeton using Zoom which was a terrific experience.

In the evening before our modest dinner, James and I sing together while he is playing guitar. TOFU is the name of our band.

During this pandemic it is important to look at our reckless behavior towards nature, and each other, and what will we do to repair the damages.

Jackson Pollock was right when he said “I AM NATURE.” It is time for us to respect ourselves, change our behavior. And I will keep on hugging, and talking to trees!

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