Archive: September 2016

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Thanks to a new partnership between Sitka Fine Arts Camp and the Colombian government’s Programa Nacional de Estímulos, SFAC is excited to welcome two Colombian artists to Sitka this fall. Juliana Martinez and Ruben Dario Lopez Ospina will present a joint concert and art show on Saturday October 1st at 7pm at the Sitka Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $20 general, $15 for students & seniors and can be purchased at Old Harbor Books or at the door. For more information call 907-747-3085.

The partnership with Colombia was made possible through a collaboration between SFAC Director Roger Schmidt and Colombia’s former Vice Minister of Culture, Maria Claudia Lopez Sorzano, whom Schmidt met while participating in theNational Arts Strategies’ Chief Executive Program. The program awards month-long residencies to two Colombian artists who then have the opportunity to pursue an artistic project on the historic Sheldon Jackson Campus. 

Juliana Martinez has been pursuing visual arts ever since her father suggested she take an art class to boost her cinema portfolio. Though she typically paints oil portraits, Juliana has opted to use watercolors during her time in Alaska. This decision was born partially out of practical concerns because oil paint takes a long time to dry. Ultimately though, Juliana chose watercolors for another, more romantic reason. One of her favorite painters, John Singer Seargent, who is traditionally remembered as an oil portraitist, also expanded into the medium of watercolor. Juliana remembers the first time that she saw his work with watercolors: “I saw his landscapes and thought, ‘I want to do that!'” Juliana noted that when she was researching Sitka to prepare for her application “[I saw] the world is surrounded by water and I thought watercolor would be a special thing to use for it.”

Juliana’s project seeks to unite seemingly disparate parts of the world through landscape painting, namely Sitka and her mother’s ancestral home. Juliana’s great-grandfather was an important leader among the indigenous Wayuu community in the coastal desert town of La Guajira, and for this reason she has always felt a strong connection to her homeland. When she first heard of the temperate rainforest town of Sitka, she did not immediately draw similarities between the two locations: “When I saw Sitka, I thought, well, that sounds like the opposite place of [my home], because La Guajira is in the desert and is really hot and crazy.” But as she gave it more thought, she reasoned that both Sitka and La Guajira are remote and that both coastal locales have strong fishing communities. “They might look very different, but at the same time have a lot of similarities,” concludes Juliana. She hopes to show this over the course of the next two months, and has set a goal to paint every day for sixty days: thirty days in and around Sitka followed by thirty days in La Guajira. The resulting pieces will examine the ideas of space and culture. She has also been filming herself while she paints, and hopes to produce a video installation piece comparing her experiences painting in each country day by day. When not hiking Verstovia to capture Sitka’s beauty on the canvas, Juliana can often be found volunteering her time and skills at Sitka High School, working with students to help develop their talents in Dave Lass’s art classes.

Ruben Dario Lopez Espina, a classical guitarist of high repute, has had the greatest teachers anyone could ask for: his father’s treasured collection of LPs. Growing up listening to and imitating the greatest masters of bossa nova, salsa, and tango helped to influence Ruben’s style, sense of rhythm, and connection to his culture. Ruben’s father was also a musician and his childhood was filled with the laughter and singing that accompanied his father’s raucous music making with his friends, who would often sit Ruben down in front of one instrument or another, instructing him to play this note or that chord. As he grew older, Ruben broadened his scope and began listening to classical music, studying its structures and styles and seeking to see how they could be applied to his guitar playing. When asked to pinpoint his greatest influences, Ruben notes that many of the familiar beats of his childhood held sway over him, but that he is simply “trying to create my own style, of both playing and composing.”

While in Sitka, Ruben is working on a project that he calls The Embrace of the Eagle and the Condor. He found inspiration for his piece in an old Incan tale which speaks of unification between the North and the South, or in his words, Alaska’s northern eagle with Colombia’s southern condor. Ruben hopes to unite truly distinct styles of music: “I want to prove that connection, show it with my music.” He has spent time listening to Tlingit music and variations on Tlingit themes in an effort to compose something that will represent an embrace of the two cultures.