"Cuenta tu propia historia y serás interesante'', escribió. "No te contagies del mal verde de la envidia. No te dejes engañar por el éxito y el dinero. No dejes que nada se interponga entre tu arte y tú''. "Tell your own story, and you will be interesting. Don't get the green disease of envy. Don't be fooled by success and money. Don't let anything come between you and your work."
Louise Bourgeois

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tanya Torres: Free Miniature Book Pendant Workshop at El Chante,...

Tanya Torres: Free Miniature Book Pendant Workshop at El Chante,...: Join us in this celebration of our muse, Mary Magdalene , and take home a little book full of inspiration made by you! It will be worth ...

Tanya Torres: Free Miniature Book Pendant Workshop at El Chante,...

Tanya Torres: Free Miniature Book Pendant Workshop at El Chante,...: Join us in this celebration of our muse, Mary Magdalene , and take home a little book full of inspiration made by you! It will be worth ...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Give me todays!

Today, one of those rare highly productive days, was a good day. I wish they were all like this! But they are not, of course, and that's ok, too. But I wish…

I often remember my conversations with Raquel, back in 2006, when we both dreamt of what we called working "Sartre's days," 4 hours a day, that is. Impossible for me, although I often don't get that much time of actual art-making. It is a bad habit I am trying to break: being responsible.

Because I start my day with emails and etsys. Yes, I can't live if I don't ship as immediately as humanly possible. It scares me to death to forget to ship something someone has already paid for… sort of like dreaming you missed a test in college. But so far so good, I never let a customer down.

I basically have 4 jobs. Art,, and "the store", which means all the reproductions and crafts I make, and meeting people who come to my studio, and cleaning/organizing the studio since now people see it. And I still have to do all the marketing, social media, personal appearances.

My 4th job is to be mom, I have to attend to the different moods and needs of the boys/family, which means lots of time listening, cooking and watching netflix. I try to combine that with rest, but it not always works.

I am often exhausted by 6 pm, my leg swollen, my body in a subtle state of pain. I don't think that even if I wanted to I could have a "regular job". The only way I can survive life is because I managed to line up all my work desires before getting to 44. I feel old and young at the same time.

Nothing too dramatic happens. Just busy. Just running all the time in my own mind. Just going with the flow while trying not to let myself go with the current. And the rushed sounds of this wild river are really deafening sometimes. I feel like a weak person while everyone around me seems to think I am so strong.

I used to dream this dream, and I feel good and proud to be living it. And now my dream is of a restful place to paint, of days like today.

To get here I had to say so many no's. It feels so bad to say no, yet how do you get a productive day if you are working at something else, if you are worried about stopping early to get somewhere, or interrupted in the middle of something important. This fragile balance is difficult, life-threatening, friendship threatening, brain-threatening.

Solitude is so appealing. I often think, I will meet so and so. And 30 seconds later, I feel overwhelmed, like it all becomes too much all of a sudden.

When I do go out and meet someone, if it is on a Friday evening, I feel fine, liberated, because I have a weekend ahead and I probably worked 6 or 7 hours, but when I do it any other time, I struggle throughout the week, trying to make up for lost time. I work every day, because I can't work that many hours in one day. Sometimes I take Sundays off, or my body takes them off.

This Monday, with my mother in NYC for a few days, we took off to go get my nephews ID (3+ hours at the DMV…), which had been impossible to get so far, and then we went to eat, and the day went by. But when I arrived I put in 6 hours and wrote 3 articles and one newsletter. Unfortunately, I cheated myself because then I was so worked up I was unable to sleep. But at least that gave me an excuse to go to the park after I could not get much done in the studio the next day.

Sleeping has become my life-priority. How did I do it before, long nights editing? I did it because I was crazy.

I am not sure what my next steps in this path will be. I continuously adjust my vision. May be it will just fall into perfection by itself and I will have more days like today. I am giving the Universe the go-ahead. Give me todays!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Tea with Tanya

It is the middle of the day, I am about to leave for downtown to go to drop off some greeting cards at the Citylore gallery in the Lower East Side, and also get a DCA permit in Wall Street. I taught a workshop for veteran women at La Guardia Community College yesterday, met with my friend Luis for some gifts he is taking to his family in Puerto Rico and wrote a newsletter and an article for Ángeles y milagros. I wrote 4 long emails of gratitude and inquiries. I had the busiest weekend this year so far, with about 7 wonderful visits to my studio by VIP guests and other people who had ordered tiles and other things. And there was a most revealing visit.

A  teacher I met 2 weekends ago at an event I signed up for without thinking (it was recommended by someone we met at the Women's Studies Conference in CT) asked me if she could bring some of her students for a visit to reward them for their participation in a math competition (when I invited her to my studio, 'I'll make you tea!'.) I said yes, I would be honored, and she later contacted me to set up a time.

They arrived on Friday, a group of middle schoolers with big smiles and joyful attitudes. We had a conversation about art, business, women in art, their own creative pursuits and we ended with a mini magical medallion workshop. I showed them a painting and had them create their own medallions. This was all improvised, spur of the moment, and it was so beautiful.

"What I thought was going to be a simple visit turned out to be an interactive and inspiring afternoon for my girls.  They learned about following your passion and what's required to own your own business.  Tanya was even so gracious as to have the girls make necklaces with her materials.  My students were glowing with smiles on the way back to school.  I left reinvigorated and reminded that I am a teacher to be a source of and to facilitate inspiration for my students."

This is what I live and create for. And this is what "Tea with Tanya" is about.
This is my announcement:

Will you join me?  
My new VIP Club will keep us in touch and will give you exclusive benefits immediately when you join:
•View new art pieces first
•Get 10% off in my Etsy Store forever
•Get a Free download of my book Cuerpo de Paz ($12 value)
•Exclusive invitation to visit my studio for tea or coffee!
Sign up here!
I've been trying to remember how exactly the idea came about and I just can't. I just had a lot of tea, and an electric tea kettle, and wanted a way to invite people to visit my studio without having an open house and without the pressure of doing anything. Because, originally, as one of the special gifts of my "VIP Club" I wrote down "Free mini workshop" but it felt like more never ending work and I just want to have fun, connect and share my art. And a workshop is something very different if  I have to plan it. I want to live a flowing life. And that only happens in a relaxed conversation.

I feel I have finally found my truth. I don't want to do anything else for now but what I do right now: create 5 days a week, tea with tanya on saturdays and by relaxed appointment (if you can't make it it is no big deal, if you show up unannounced I hope I'm here!), events (Women's and Puerto Rican, mostly, but open to the possibilities), exhibitions if someone invites me and I don't have the responsibility for the whole thing, Mary Magdalene everything, especially our semi-periodical Mary Magdalene Celebration and products in stores.

The single best idea I have had in my recent life is "Tea with Tanya," which is complementary to my VIP list, they are really one thing. I only want to see special people, so anybody in my VIP who signs out of love and enthusiasm and respect, is special to me.

I am sharing this because I want to remember it. I want to remember how I felt at this moment when I don't need anything else because this feels so great. And also I want to remember why my decision to follow my open intuition about my art career was right.

I know this is not for most artists, I know that this is not the route for fame and fortune. But I also know that this is what I need to do right now and what will lead me to the next stage when I am older and have a second harvest. Unless I die first and this is what I leave the world, which is fine with me.

But if I get to live to 90+ as I have planned, I will come up with a way to find the human connection through art and word with flow and fun. That's what I am striving for.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A Perfect Accounting app for Art Business (or Any Micro-Business)

I had been putting it off, but yesterday I wanted to procrastinate about something else and remembered I had thought of exploring some app links I got from the Freelancers Union email. Artist are not literally freelancers but because I have been a writer/editor for a long time and was looking for health insurance, I joined their mailing list. Once in a while they send an amazing link, and this was one of them:
10 Great apps for busy freelancers: accounting, contracts, etc.
When I saw the word "accounting" I knew that was my cue to get to work on that. Every year I have to figure out everything by adding it up, and I am BAD with the calculator. If I add 3 times, I get 3 different results, so you can imagine how frustrating that is…

So in the email I read about Wave, and yesterday, I procrastinated by signing up (for free) and connecting my accounts. The process got exciting when I realized that this could be my reality check as well as my end or year life saver, and I decided to really put some work into it and see the truth of my economic life.

Seeing those summary sheets that it produces truly shows me the light at the end of the tax year tunnel, and it's only April.

I thought I would share it with you in case you are looking to make yourself more professional with money matters. I still have my notebook, old style, while I trust myself with the program, but I think it will not take too long to give it up. Amazing app! And super easy!!

Wave Accounting is a free alternative for people who need accounting software to manage the day-to-day aspects of their business with ease. The tool caters to freelancers and offers detailed reports, along with the ability to add accounts and directly link bank information from the app's console. The interface for the Wave application is intuitive and there is helpful advice throughout the experience.
P.D. This is a rave review, but I have nothing to do with this company, I'm just happy to have found it since I needed to get my accounting into electronic shape.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Studio Update

Little by little, I have been shaping my life the way that feels right for me. Nothing is perfect of course, but you've got to keep trying.

I have moved away from teaching and workshops, and fully moved into creating and selling. My extra job writing is soothing and fine for me. Not having to go anywhere to do my work keeps me sane. When I think back to the times when I had to go into an office or even a classroom (a different one for every project, which made it even worse) I feel the knot in my chest. It is an awful feeling I never again want to experience.

The idea of opening the door of my studio for guests took a long time to feel and trust, but it is finally happening almost on its own. I've been announcing "Tea with Tanya" to make people comfortable coming in. For me, it just takes keeping the studio moderately organized and clean, because I hope nobody expects a working art studio to be immaculate like those in the magazines! I have not announced the open studio hours too much yet because I like to give each person their own space and time and so far people have been making appointments, which is really great. But my plan is to open 3-6 on Saturdays so anybody who is taking a walk on a Saturday afternoon can drop in. I would also like to come up with a "Visit to El Barrio" plan or map so people can make their visit even better.

And it is sooooo much more pleasurable than teaching or traveling. I still will do the events, of course, since that is the best way to meet new people and display my work. And I enjoy doing that.

I think that for an artist who is beginning or needs a lot of space to work this would be the wrong idea to pursue, but for my work and personality, it feels right. This year I will be able to tell how it works. Since I only have myself to account to, I can do whatever I want, which is my goal in life :)

Monday, February 10, 2014

When you ask from your heart...

I dared say what I want. Opportunities are pouring. Now it's on me.

I am starting to fully believe that my secret goal statement is becoming true and that things are lining up for it to be realized. It is hard to believe, but when 3 places ask enthusiastically to show your work, you know it is Divine Intervention via Goals as prayers.

What I most want in life is to serve humanity through my creative work.

In order to do this I need to live in full freedom. Including economic freedom.

I believe that if I have an infrastructure that supports me in this way, I will then be able to fully receive and translate the messages of Love.

So that is what I give: my life in the service of Love.

And Love gives me freedom, and more love.

This is all very abstract. In "real life," I follow up on leads, ideas and help that other people offer.

•If I get an email with a wonderful request, such as an invitation for an exhibition that fits me really well, I go with my gut feeling and answer immediately.

•If a friend does something for me, like Raquel finding us a place in Albuquerque for the Mary Magdalene Celebration, I cannot rest until I honor her time and effort by following up and doing my part.

•If someone asks for a donation for a cause I am feeling close to, I send it. It is usually printed art. Costs me a lot less than advertisement, serves a purpose, helps people in their projects, and goes straight to the heart of future "fans."

•If I get a message in my mind to do something voluntarily, I immediately send the intended person or organization an email offering it.

•I take the time to talk with people about themselves. Because it is all about them and not about me.

•I give free advice to whoever asks, whether I know them or not. In the beginning of my journey as an artist, I got a lot of advice because I asked a lot of probably inappropriate questions to my chosen mentors, people I admired and continue to admire.

I cultivate the spiritual side of my art in many such ways, and I get back so much Love. That's the way it works for me.

I am not looking for fame or even recognition. I am trying to touch the human heart, and I go with what resonates with that goal. For money, I create things and people buy them. Or write things and people read them. It is all ethereal. And that's the way I have found to do this work without giving up. From the heart and only from the heart.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Because life is art and art is life

Little Universes, hand-painted necklaces, finished this week.
(Attention: Pictures at the end of this unnervingly long post...)

After the events I last wrote about, I have had a more peaceful time. It turns out my son's name was mentioned by a boy as the "only good influence in his life." How did it get from that to us being told there might be a horrible drug problem? That's the question I would like answered by the school, but I am not pursuing this situation as long as it stays calm. It gave me an opportunity to talk to my son, learn about his reactions, what his attitude is. And I have to say, I am proud of him.

But because of this situation and the rest, my energy was very low and my production minimal in the past weeks. This week it was much better, especially because last Friday, my friend Yari and I decided to take vengeance on mishaps and curves, and had fondue with sangria to celebrate. It truly was one of the best dates we ever had. And we felt really fabulous eating a luxurious mushroom fondue and dark chocolate with bailey's fondue for desert. We are visiting The Borgois Pig again!

Back to art this week, I retook the making of my poetry pendant book and other little projects I had pending. I still can't paint with oils after being sick for the whole month of January, and am seriously conjuring the possibility of finding some space exclusively for painting apart from my studio, which has evolved little by little into a multipurpose use including printing, shipping, jewelry-making, book-making, writing room and office, and showroom complete with refrigerator, tea kettle and Nespresso machine, and sofa. It is great and I love how my dream of having customers visit me here directly here is coming true without me even announcing it, but the only thing I can't really do here without paying for it with my health is painting in oils. I am working on a few plans... we'll see how it turns out. All I know is I need to start right away since my plan for the whole year rests on having and a couple of new Magdalenes by July and a new series of paintings by September. Otherwise I will be painting only tiles and acrylics, which is a possibility. I just don't want to give up oil painting, and hope to find a place. Or a great air purifier that works intensely.

But enough of life. Life is good, even if it sometimes tests you to see if you are serious about your goals. Because I put out so many plans at the beginning of the year, I think I shocked myself with fear of the unknown. But I am going ahead, even if I only do half. My goal is to prove to myself and the people I care about that doing what you love and making a good living at it is possible even when you have no idea how to do it, have not business knowledge and nobody to guide you. Because even after all this time, that is how I feel.  I'm half-way or more there, but with an intense sense of urgency because most people I know need to believe this fast, right now. So I need to make this year the best art business year of my life so far.

For that I am going ahead with  the projects I already had and a few more. Among these are:

•Open studio hours every week, now that the space is in decent shape.

•Create new products that are easier to produce. I have three dream products: a coloring book, a deck of cards, and a calendar (or several calendars) I have the drawings for the coloring book, am only missing 5 or 6 images for the deck and already chose a whole year of images for one calendar. Now I need to decide how to go about these projects. My id tells me to make them by hand, beautiful and artistic. That is very impractical, of course. My Superego tells me to outsource it all and just sell a product, which is not really me since I am an artist and feel the need to touch everything that comes out of me. My not so balanced ego is still considering who to marry the two... I think it is the "easier to produce" part that I will never achieve. Art, simply, is not easy to produce, even if it is just a reproduction.

•Participate in a higher end art fair this year. By "chance" I mentioned this to an artist friend who told me that he had been looking for someone to partner with to do this, and that he had no idea I was interested. I had no idea he was interested either. Now we have decided to make a list of the closest art fair and take the plunge together. He wanted to do it right away, but I am not ready for that, but I would be able to get ready by September (and that's why I must get painting!) These art fairs are very expensive, require gallery representation and are really a gamble. But my friend tells me he used to do them in Miami and that's how he made his living, by participating in fairs 4 times a year. I have been wanting to "try my luck" for a while now, but can't go on my own because of the requirements (at least for the one I requested information) I also have my two main events, the Festival of 116 street for the Puerto Rican Parade and the Comité Noviembre towards the end of the year. I need to use these coming months wisely if I don't want to be fatigued like this year, which was very good but also very demanding.

•Open a store for my art, products and to sell art materials in Puerto Rico. This sounds so much grander than the idea really is. My dad and I had this idea to open a stand in the market and sell these things. I wrote a fancy proposal, but I think he gave up on it. But if you have read this blog for a while, you know that ideas just stay stuck in my mind for ever until they get realized... I have been thinking about it again this week, and it might take years and another shape, but it would be a great excuse to travel to PR more often and go to La Parguera to ride with Waldemar on his boat, so that's why I can't give up on it. Lately, I have been dreaming of the sea and the sun. Is it winter?

•Participate in two Women's Studies Conferences. My friend in Southern Connecticut University invited me to participate in their market during the conference there, and since she and her friends are not only fans but also great customers, I jumped at the opportunity. We are also trying to figure out how to get the book edited by Myrna Nieves, Breaking Ground, that has some of my poetry in it (ans a lot by women I know), to the Women's Conference that will take place in November in Puerto Rico. My ideal customers are precisely women who are educated, feminist and spiritual,  and these conferences are so much more exciting for me than things that are just art and artists. I am still finding my way and trying to figure out where my art does best. So far, wherever there are educated women.

Mary Magdalene Celebration- This usually costs money instead of the opposite, but it is our promesa and such a wonderful opportunity to present my art in perfect company. Working with Raquel is just ideal since each of us does her thing and we take it easy and do what we can without going into overwhelm. This year we moved so fast on this that not only we now have a place, a time and more or less a plan, but I will also be officially part of the exhibition at the gallery in Albuquerque that will be hosting us. So for the fourth year in a row, I will spend summer in New Mexico! I think I can claim it as my third home now! I have always thought that New Mexico is the only other state where I would live if I don't live in NY, so little by little and thanks to Raquel, I have become more in love with it. I was not planning to go again this summer, but it is fate!

•Find those 100 stores to sell my things. I have been slow with this and last year managed to get 2 that worked well for me, plus a museum store in PR that bought my things but that I have to pursue more. Then I thought, I better get the things made first... so I have been working on my Universe necklaces (little ones above!) and opening myself to receiving new ideas for art products to create this year. Sometimes the Universe bombards me with ideas that I forget to write down, so I am going to remember and choose some before I forget again!

•Improve all my marketing efforts. Facebook has been great, because I just post and I don't have to contact anybody directly, people comment or like if the feel like it. But I made myself send a Valentine's email yesterday because some people actually love to get my emails and it is stupid to be shy about a little email once in a while. I do have to improve my website, and just keep up in general. Right now I am thinking of a system, but I am kind of lost. I feel like I have had to learn so many things in order to do this whole thing. I love every aspect of it, but it really is just too much.

And on top of all that, be a mom, be a friend, wife, daughter, writer. No wonder I have not minutes left in my day. Although I do go to "sleep" (I never sleep at that time...) at 8 or 9 or 6:30. My body does not keep up with all this too well...

How did I come up with all this plan? I looked at my past year, my present calendar, and my projects on hold. Then I used Marie Forleo's planning tool forms, and filled them out. They are loose enough that I don't feel extra pressure, but made me really pay attention to what I want to accomplish this year.

And last but not least, I was feeling, well, not so good about myself this past year 2013, so I have been changing looks a lot in order to find some release. This is today's look, which after the normal, down to earth, brown look I had been wearing from November until now (with one blonde exception,) was a surprising change. My son did not look away in disgust (like with the blonde...) and said I was brightening or shining or something like that, in his own neutral way. And my nephew said he liked it. And my friend said I'm crazy. And our Slovak tenant said I look like I'm going to a party and asked if it is my real hair. And the guy in t-mobile looked me in the eye and was sooooo helpful. And a girl with less bright fake hair almost pushed me with disgust and rage in the pharmacy. Who would have ever thought I could be a redhead? My blonde experiment was pretty good but the dark brown (never shown...) a complete failure as was the short hair (which I am not going to show you again...). Now this I can enjoy...

This is called Cooper Red. And I feel like Iris Chacón 

without the fully voluptuous figure (just half voluptuous).  I think I am keeping it for a while. Older ladies keep saying to me "you look like a young girl" and I don't know if it is good or bad, ridiculous or appropriate, but who cares. Life is art, isn't it? Why not wear some?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Welcome to Teenagehood

I try not to, but when my life is going "too well," I brace myself for what's coming up next. I might well be attracting it, but it always happens. Life is not perfect, and as much as we design it the way we want it, once in a while something gets thrown at you, just in case you were getting too confy...

Yesterday, it was such a day. I woke up early and rested, and decided to clean my house a little. I was looking forward to seeing my beloved friend Yari in the evening, so just that made me happy to for the day. I had to call someone in Albuquerque at 12, because things are going really well and Raquel has gotten us a space in a beautiful community gallery/events space. I had to come up to my studio and finish my work to meet the weeks goals, and that always feels so good. And I was just looking forward to a good day, since the day before had not ended so well.

The day before my husband had smelled a strange smell in our apartment, something that smelled, lets say "herbal," and with two teens in the house and several young male visitors... we just had to worry.

So he invited our helper Felix in the apartment, an expert in such matters, having been in and out of rehab all his life. The guy could have been a star. Handsome, lean, even well behaved (unless my beautiful friend Raquel is around, since he has felt inspired to express his admiration...) Anyway, he judged the smell to be marihuana, so I hear a long speech about how I had to take care of this problem.

And the problem was how to deal with such delicate matters, considering volatile tempers, broken egos and adolescent insecurities. So I did the easy part first, which was talk to my son, who assured me of his innocence. I was not born a parent, so I have no idea how to tell whether sincere or actor. He seemed sincere, so I just told him how terrible it would be if I had to deal with that on top of everything else, and to please wait until 30 if he was ever going to go in such direction.

And yesterday, the morning after these events, I was feeling hopeful and kind of good, and had a whole meal cooked (a suspicious behavior on my part... if you see me cooking in the morning, it must be I am trying to work something out in my mind. But even I thought it was the big plans for my art empire...)

So the morning goes by and I notice a call in my phone, which I always silence when I am stressed because the ringer makes me jump scared. I listened to the message and it was the school counselor. Can you come in, it's something serious. Your son's name has been mentioned in connection with a certain dangerous substance.

I was there in no time, husband too, and we are thinking all sorts of things on the way there. Then we come in and see one of our son's friends accompanied by his mother, coming out of the counselor's office.

The counselor sees us. She says a kid is in the hospital, brain damaged because of a new drug that is acquired through the Internet that is not even illegal to use. Our son's name has come up as the people who might have been involved with this drug. Have we noticed something unusual?

Teenagers are unusual. Does it mean anything that he went to sleep after school? That he seemed a little depressed lately? That nothing seems unusual?

Then the vice principal comes in, he talks a little more down to earth. This is not for sure, we just wanted to make sure the parents knew, there's this senior kid who just transferred to the school and is now in the hospital, with possible permanent brain damage. Your kid's name was mentioned but we don't really know, we just thought we should inform the parents. How about you take him for a physical and ask the doctor privately to run drug tests? That way you can know for sure before talking to him about it. That sounded a lot different from what the counselor was saying, still scary, but not as final. And he gave us a plan as well. I appreciated that because I had no idea what to do with the information without messing it all up.

Then I come home and try to rest, but it is time to go. Because my brain is no longer working, I confuse the time I have to see my friend. I leave on time to see her at the right time, but after waiting for the train for a while, I realize I don't have my phone. So I have to get out of the station, go home, get the phone, and change hats because NYC is FROZEN, and leave again. I should have called but I thought I would make it on time anyway because I had left early, according to my damaged brain on natural acids. I make it 8 minutes after she is gone. I think it is the end of the world by then. My friend must have thought I am a horrible person who forgets dates with friends. An irresponsible and inconsiderate late person. Even though I am always early, except this time.

My mind was going there, for the next hours. I looked at magazines but could not concentrate. After an hour I left and bought a coffee, the same I always order, and I didn't taste like anything. Even my sense of taste was wrong.

Later that night I gave it all to God for a while because I really could not carry it anymore. Today I cooked another meal at 10 am, but feel more real again. My friend wrote. That was a relief because I thought she would not talk to me ever again. That is how tragic I am.

Welcome to teenagehood. This too shall pass.

Friday, January 17, 2014


I reserve the right to be happy. I don't care whether I see or not the sore spots of my life, or the unresolved issues, or the hopelessness of working towards a goal. I know it is not about the goal, but about having a good time while you are at it.

How many times have we arrived only to see a new horizon ahead? How many things have we forgotten already.

Once in a while my friends remind me of who I was, and I smile, relieved, that I am not there anymore. And I know that in a few years I will smile, relieved again, that I am not here. Still, I enjoy being here, right now it is the best thing ever.

I also reserve the right to whine once in a while, just so I can hear myself, and hate the whining. And fix it.

I am no longer a whiner, thank you Great History's Goddess! My apologies to all the good people who had to put up with me back in the days. I just didn't know any better. That's what everybody does, so I did it too.

I reserve the right to just have fun at times, and not work on anything and not care about anything serious. Most of the time I am taking care of people, so I like to hide, too.

And I hope my friends will tell me when I am giving too much advice. Sorry! I am a fixer. The temptation is too great. But I can shut up once in a while. It is just that I was really unhappy most of my life and I just don't want anybody to be unhappy like I used to be. Just know I have very good intentions!

I also reserve the right not to be questioned, especially indirectly. Want an answer? Ask kindly, and clearly. I am really bad at interpreting indirect words. I am really bad at many things.

Once thing I am getting good at is being myself. And that was really hard.

So far, so good.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Maximum Propositum

Since I said I would share my journey to my grand goal here, this is how it starts.

maximum propositum
My art will be fully supporting my creative, economic and spiritual life by the time I become 50 years old. I will live in a state of creative freedom, physical balance and spiritual ecstasy so that I can share these ideals and the fruits of my creativity with the world in a sustainable manner without economic worries or pressures. 

As soon as I wrote this, I wondered why the urge. And it's been an urge for many years. I felt a little stupid about my goal. Why do I even need a goal?

I think, mostly, I want to feel like I have a solid base from which I can launch my flight. I believe that if I set up the systems that create passive income and allow myself creative time without worries, then my art will take care of me and my family, and my friends too. I like to feel in control of my own life, and never lose my right to live the way I want.

I have a terrible inability to stay sane in situations that require me to do the same every day, or deal with people every day. I have this memory of having to wake up to go to work. It is very painful. I don't want to feel trapped like I felt throughout my 20s when I was a teacher and then an editor. Editing was better, but it was difficult to be in an atmosphere where everyone was anxious about the near future. Then, my last try in my 30s, when I was at Boricua College, I was unable to sleep well the whole year. My empathy nature was overwhelmed by the feelings I was picking up. So I gave up on all that for good.

I work best independently. I have the ability to envision, plan and complete projects without much pain. But I have never gotten down packed the ability to make more money than I need, which is essential when you are working independently. That is what is missing right now, and that is what I want to work on.

Also, goals have a way of nagging at you until you reach them. I just read this yesterday, and it makes a great deal of sense. It also explains to me my own urge:

1.           When you create a goal, you invest a part of yourself. The goal becomes a part of you as if you have already achieved it; it is now an extension of yourself. Somewhere in your mind, that big house you are working towards is already yours. Your mind is now working to achieve its new self-image. 

2.           Our minds can't distinguish between things we want and things that we have. It treats failure to reach a goal in the same way it would view losing something precious. That means up until the exact moment you achieve your goal, your subconscious perceives a sense of failure for not obtaining the goal. When the goal is set properly, this feeling of failure turns into a tension that it will relieve by driving you towards accomplishment. 

3.           As you make positive strides towards your goals, your body releases a chemical called dopamine. This creates a sense of pleasure and helps keep you motivated. Dopamine is directly related to desire. When you are not taking positive steps towards your goals or you do not believe the goal can be attained, the dopamine is cut off. This produces anxiety and fear.

Crosby, Dennis (2014-01-02). Becoming The 1%: How To Master Time Management And Rise To The Top In 7 Days (Updated For 2013) (Kindle Locations 428-437).  . Kindle Edition. 

When I was about 21 years old, I wrote "I want to make a living with my art" and I have never stopped being obsessed by my own words.

The release of dopamine also explains why I had been feeling ecstatic in the last month of 2013.

I worked very hard during October and November, and saw the results in December. I also saw results for the entire decade. It was as if my work of the last 10 years blossomed at the end of 2013. And I felt that my words at 21 will become true. It was truly a relief to see some results at the end of a decade, mistakes and all, and a push to continue.

Now I am working on a detailed plan. It is both hard and easy. I was relieved when I read the first few chapters of the book cited above (which I bought in a moment of inspiration... Kindle has been tempting me non-stop lately...) I realized that I was doing exactly what the author described you have to do in order to become really excellent at attaining your goals. I'm glad to have learned something along the way! But still have to do the work, make the detailed plan, brainstorm my heart out. It is not done in one sitting, but I am making good progress, and working on it every day. My list is long! More soon.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The most beautiful gift


Sunday night I received one of the most beautiful gifts I ever got in my entire life. My friends María, Corazón, Myrna and Bruni, aka "the Orchid Goddesses," gave me this slide show as a ceremony to become Butterfly Woman. They read to me the thoughts they added to the slides.

I cannot even describe what I felt, I could just smile, listen and see what they had put together. Each set of words elicited by the letters in Butterfly Woman became an affirmation for my own life, something I am living and something I am to continue being.

The thought that someone will sit and do this for me fills me with an enormous sense of gratitude and joy, and I am simply speechless.

The piece was put together by María Mar, whom I am sure is the master mind behind it all, and includes some of her own illustrations. My favorite is the one that shows my inner child!

My friends have shown me so much love this year, life has given me so much this year.

I only hope to be able to give as much as I have received.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

End of Year Review

When I started writing this blog, I called it Hoy, artista because it is was the first phrase that came to mind when I thought of what I would like to write about. It has always felt like an affirmation, a concise reminder of what I set out to do at some blurry point in my personal history. I chose the word "artist" because I feel it encompasses more than painter or printmaker or writer or poet. And at the time, it seems to me now, I was doing it all, trying my hand at all that was available in the great cauldron of creativity.

Little by little I started defining what was to stay and what was to go, and at times I had to make semi-painful decisions about what I would let go.

This year I finally saw the fruits of my labor and decisions come to the foreground. I've done many things and realized many dreams in the past years, counting from 2003 after I came out of the stem cell transplant, until today, at the end of 2013. Ten years of hard work, mistakes and recommitment to what I like to see as my mission in life, both for my own soul and for the world.

I have grown much in the process in many different directions, and in terms of hard currency, in my ability to sit down and create without much fear or reticence. Like everyone, I have my dances around difficult things, but with the knowledge that the dance is as much part of the process as the work itself.

This year, in the middle of it, I felt kind of lost and empty of meaning, whipping myself about my lack of goals. I felt like a horse in a horse race, or a dog in a dog race, whichever is more automatic. I asked myself many times what is my goal for doing all this? In many ways, I felt my original goal had been accomplished and that left me a little disoriented. I'm an artist, Ok, I can do art whenever I want. And I can travel whenever I want. And I can go out for a walk if I want, or meet with interesting people, or pretty much do what I want, my slogan for several years: hacer lo que me dé la gana ("do what I want" - with a funny-braggart tone to make it more emphatic and annoying.)

I also resolved once and for all my people issues. If people hate me, they have been pretty quiet about it lately, in part because I decided to take my force back and keep it to myself. I am here because I have worked very hard to get here. And the way I see it, I'm in the very middle of the road with a lifetime of work ahead, so there's nothing to envy and nothing to apologize about. The love I get from strangers has healed the wounds left by loved ones. Right now I am loving everyone, including myself, enough to give myself the right not to be bothered by other people's issues, and to say no to things I don't want. Well, I'm not always so good at that, but I keep working on it.

I have also set the limits of my territory. When people decide to bring conflictive energy into my studio, a place for peace, love and joy, they are out of here. And how fast they learn...

So what was bothering me? My lack of goals. Is this it? I keep doing what I do and that's it? I was not understanding something, it was there but I couldn't see it. There was a challenge I had forgotten about.

But before the end of the year, I finally remembered. What a relief to remember I am not doing this just to do it blindly and fatefully. It is way too much work. I remembered, again, Nicholasa's words, take care of your art and your art will always take care of you.

I do have a goal! I want my art to completely take care of me by the time I am 50. I want, by that time, to step out of the horse race and create without pressures. I realized that by that time my son will be an adult with (hopefully) a university degree, my nephew will have defined his everyday life, and I will be able to step into my own life fully. That's what I'm wishing for, hoping for, praying for in material terms.

In the spiritual plane, I feel that, for a while now, I have been living my mission, and when I have doubts, I always get some kind of confirmation about it. It often comes in the form of an email or written message, and these gifts of life fuel me for the everyday work that I must do to reach my goal. Right now I don't have enough hours in the day for everything. And I have to deal with conflicting feelings everyday and practical matters such as food and cleaning. I fail miserably many days, and call the Chinese restaurant. So when someone visits me, they come to my studio, which as messy as it is, feels good and bright. And I now have a nice supply of teas, and Nespresso coffee. And some wine for tertulias. All I need now is the Dr. Who formula of how to make the space grow inside the closet... But as I tell my friends, we can sit on each other's laps and we'll be warmer.

I even realized my dream of having a "store" this year. With the changes to my studio: adding a bathroom and a sofa, drawers, getting rid of stuff and creating a space for several different tasks that require certain materials, I managed to create a more appropriate atmosphere for receiving customers here. And because I attended so many events this year, people remembered me for their Christmas gifts and came by up to the morning of the 24th. Of course, right now I am exhausted, but happy and satisfied. And, above all, grateful.

It is hard to describe the feeling of gratitude that I carry inside. I step in here each morning and the sun shines so bright through the windows that it makes me feel like laughing here all by myself. Or dancing. Which I don't do because I get right to work.

Now a new decade begins. I have planted my seeds, so now I want to make them grow. I have some ideas to do that. And I have 6 years to reach my goal. Numbers always scare me a little, but I feel up to the challenge. I hope to write it here in case anyone out there needs some company in realizing their own special dreams. I think that's what life is mostly about.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Facebook Thoughts

My life has been taken over by "art business" in the past months. Add to that two teens, and my work for Ángeles y milagros, plus keeping up with friends and family, and my plate is spilling.

But I am satisfied. I have learned so much in the past couple of years, that now I am having a feeling that all this work has been worth it. I just have to be very careful what I take on from now on. I really can't hold anything else.

One of my discoveries this year has been Facebook. I reluctantly signed up a few years ago because a friend "made me." Then I created the business page, because Allison Stanfield said I should (in her blog!) Then I began to like it more because it reconnected me with friends I thought lost forever, and to like it less because of the same reason... Until this year I started posting art almost exclusively. I post my art, I post my friends art, I post articles I find interesting, I post events, I post art quotes and I post, once in a while, an etsy listing. And what seem to be the most popular ones? My new photo... Crazy but fun!

I feel temped to write about this makeover, but might leave that for my upcoming birthday...

Results? (Not of my photo, of course, of posting art!)  I've sold 2 paintings and a bunch of smaller items. Many people don't comment or like, but then show up at events I have announced and tell me they found out through Facebook. I've also connected with fans from overseas, especially Europe, and even had to delete an admirer. Well, that was not so fun...

I think people become friends in Facebook for different reasons, but most people who become my friends or like my page do it because of my work. I assume this is the same for most artists. So it is important to not go so far from that when we artists post. This might be a hint if you are trying to figure out how Facebook works. People like images most of all, and links with a lot of text least of all.

An example was this interview I posted recently. My friend María created a beautiful publication and it contains an interview we did a few weeks ago. I think she did a great job editing the piece and in the e-magazine in general. But for some reason it received a lot less likes than I usually get for images. Maybe people didn't like my new look? But I am a Yellow Butterfly like my store!!!!

Whatever it means, I know I like images a lot more than text or links in Facebook. And for art, once someone asks a question, such as the price, or how to order, other people get over their own shyness to ask.  I'm still not sure if posting the price helps. In art, when someone wants something, they just want it. They will keep thinking and looking until they trust you enough to decide to get it. So posting often, without tags, is helpful.

I generally dislike tags, because they involve you in conversations you might not want to participate but feel too bad to leave. I highly dislike those messages that people send to a bunch of people. I LOVE personal messages, just you and me, nobody else. Or just you, a friend or two and me, something personal from people I know or who have something to say to me. Is that just me??

Facebook is also good to take a break and also to share something new that you are excited about. It's amazing how much love people can show in this impersonal medium. If I am feeling discouraged, I use facebook like a coffee break without coffee. I look and like things, and post something uplifting or an image or something fun, and it just feel good, makes me feel better, less alone in the business of being a living artist.

When was the last time I left the building? That was Sunday... and it is Wednesday... what would people do without Facebook?! Maybe they would come out of hiding more often!!!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Remembering the bad beginnings in contrast to the present state...

A Blue Hair print is part of my Facebook friend Sonsiris abundance altar.  For me this is better than being in the MOMA!

A guy once called my paintings "pornographic". I think he meant erotic, but this was a teacher...

I once gave a beautiful print of Atabey to a friend, and when I visited her the friend had placed it in front of the dog dish. I guess the dog could appreciate art better than she did. I didn't really say anything or thought to get mad. I just let it go, like with most things that don't seem quite right. But now that I think about it... I should have been a taker-backer right then and there. If I were to sell that print now, it would go in less than 5 minutes at the Comité Noviembre event.

A lot of my art is placed in bathrooms. The way I see it is 1) We spend a lot of time there 2) One day it will make it to the bedroom, or even the living room! In fact, some of my best pieces, I think, are in a bathroom, so I'm actually proud of that.

Luckily, I didn't choose to question myself about the dog dish decor or my porno illus, but kept on going, and about 15 years later,  I feel I have finally made it to the very best place in the world. People's hearts. Love through email, through Facebook, in person. People write to me telling me they want to come to New York and see my art, or that a Magdalene painting touched them deeply, or they want to take pictures with me or they use my art in their altars. The other day I went to a poetry reading and am embarrassed and honored to say that somehow several of the featured poets felt the need to thank me during their presentation. The professor that presented them said she was my collector. I was not part of this event, just went there to support my friend. It all seems very surreal, but gratitude fills my heart, and joy, too, because I try hard in this very difficult path that is being an artist.

I  write this here not to show off, I hope it does not come out that way, but to sort of breath in and out, and celebrate that after such long years, I can feel it has been worth it. It is worth it every day and every hour.

And I write this here in case someone out there is feeling discouraged, or offended, or sad. I would say, just keep doing what comes out naturally. Don't listen to criticism or actions that come out of ignorance or lack of love. Love intensely what you do in the moment you do it. That is the feeling that brings out the alchemy of art and helps the artist connect to the audience.

Beauty leaves you. Romance too. Health, friends, family. Nothing seems to be eternal. You only have yourself in the end. If someone chooses to walk with you, love them intensely, they deserve it. But if they leave, love them too. Only love.

This is not a thanksgiving post, but a gratitude to life post.  And by now, my art is in many people's living rooms! And I'm very grateful for that!

Migdalia's Living Room is the Museum of LOVE!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Magdalene Guides Me

Can you believe I'm already planning the next Magdalene event? I feel a little crazy, but in that case, so is my compi ncha Raquel who has agreed to everything. And my dad, who said he is going, and my mom too, and my friend Rosa Ocema, who just said yes, she is going... to Albuquerque.

This time, we are doing something a little more, a little bigger, a little extravagant. I'm thinking we will find the right place to do this event with an art exhibition, a concert by Raquel, and a tertulia or panel (like the idea of the tertulia, everybody commenting on what they have learned, heard, sharing images, thoughts... etc...), may be a poetry reading, may be a workshop, dancing, singing together, gifts, joy. A Mary Magdalene Celebration all the way there and all the way!

The date is set. Would you like to join us? Would you like to share something? July 19, 2014. ¿Te apuntas? Signing up?
Mary Magdalene of the Roses by Tanya Torres

Sunday, November 10, 2013

New Painting

There are so many things in my mind, that it is sometimes difficult to write, and make sense. I begin posts and quit on them, because I feel that I live so fast it is impossible to keep track or put it into words. And at  the same time, I am just here, in the studio, controlling several operations at the same time. I feel like I live inside my mind and once in a while make contact with the real world. I enjoy that, to be truthful, but hope not to lose touch!

Something easier to write about is the painting I have just started. I wanted to make a big painting to take to the upcoming Comité Noviembre Art and Crafts fair on November 23 at Hostos Community College, and although I might not finish itbecause I got too greedy and prepared a 48" x 72" canvas, it is still great to give myself a challenge that takes me away from the little things. 

Below is the design, and a photo of the design, printed on regular paper and put together like a jigsaw puzzle. I already transferred it to the canvas and I will start painting tomorrow. (The yellow part is transfer paper.)

Ever since I made the first mural I discovered that I can work on small drawings, a more manageable task than a large canvas, and then use photoshop to make it the size I want for a big piece. Then I pick up photos for the symbols or images I want to include, and turn it into a more developed design.

For this one, my ongoing challenge of how to create art that is both Puerto Rican (thinking of the Comité Noviembre event, dedicated to Puerto Rican art and crafts) and my own style, and not too cliche. I reworked a different drawing that I liked a lot, and added the flowers that I thought of and remember from Puerto Rico: cruz de Malta, hibiscus, anthuriums. Now that I think about it, the correspond to my ages: young child, bigger child, and young woman. In the background is a silhouette of El Yunque. Under the woman will be river water. And a blue sky, unless that changes in my mind later. There is a Puerto Rican parrot, a Puerto Rican boa and a coquí, animals from a game I created many years ago and never actually published, but for which I did a lot of research on the animals of the island.

When I think of the political and etc. situation of Puerto Rico, it definitely does not inspire me to paint. Only nature inspires me, and the animals, which are part of nature. And this I guess is the paradise I wish I lived in.

One interesting anecdote of my recent living is that my friend Corazón is teaching a class in healing dance and I joined it. In the last class she asked me to come up with a metaphor for the dance I would perform (and this is dance meditation, not me dancing with the stars!) and I had just done this large woman canvas, so that was the only thing in my mind. So I went there for the meditation during the dance and it was really nice to work with the image in a different medium as a way to imagine it and explore it more in depth. We'll see how one thing works with the other, I never did this before. I had no idea what I was getting into when I joined the class, but now I can say it is a wonderful practice my friend has created. My body hurts, but it does help unlock the soul!

I really look forward to seeing this painting finished and can't wait to start. In preparation, I did as much work as possible tonight, Sunday night, so hopefully tomorrow will be a good day to work on the painting. Once I get started, it will be good, but a large canvas is a scary thing to deal with at first. Although, as Georgia O'Keeffe said:

I think that's true for me for the most part... And a canvas is nothing to worry about...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Artist Talk

Today I got some good news for Reve de Femmes! They are publishing my art again in the next agenda!! And I really needed, just now, a little push in the right direction. I am getting ready to travel to Pennsylvania with Heaven and Earth for a talk and exhibition tomorrow at Bloomsburg University. It is always nerve-wrecking to do this, but it is part of the job, and I actually enjoy it once I am doing it. Why have I never been able to overcome the nerves of packing up? It happens every time. I'm so tired of it.

Fortunately, this is not the hardest thing in life. All I have to do is put together a slide show, and refine my ideas. I already have a good amount of text for a talk, I just need to weave it, and give it a nice flow.  With this work, it is so much easier to just start talking spontaneously with people and begin by answering a question. It has happened almost every time during the exhibitions. This time, I have to find the flow and the questions by drawing on those previous experiences and make it more formal. 30 to 50 people... I've done it before.

I tried to prepare by buying a class from Allison Stanfield. It was good, but I pretty much knew and practice everything that was discussed in it. One thing I realized is how long I have been doing this by now. I remember being unable to speak in front of my English class in High School. And how my voice went away when answering questions in school. And how I dropped out of Speech in City College. And how that was one of the few classes where I got a B when I finally had no other choice but take it. And then I got Mixta Gallery, and it was easy. It was very easy because I was just presenting people, talking whatever came to my mind.

When I decided to "take my art on the road", it was also easy to speak. I read poems and spoke about each experience. The talk were the experiences of cancer, and that was easy, because they were recent, and people seemed to want to hear them.

Then was the Magdalene. And that was kind of easy too, because I had been so immersed in the topic. Each painting had a lot of backup from my readings. And how long is an artist talk after all? 45 minutes, often less. The questions are easy to answer. They come from the art or from what you already said.

With Heaven and Earth it is so much more challenging. There was so much back and forth between the paintings, the drawings and the poems. Because some of these paintings were poems first. Them drawings, then poems again in Destellos de Sofía/Sophia's Light. I was realizing this an hour ago, at the doctor with Jean, who got sick this morning and left me no choice but to take him to the clinic. Nothing, said the doctor, which I already knew. I think he was anxious. He is so much like me in some ways. And that is one of my worst parts. I get sick when I'm anxious. Does it run in the family. I want to kill this stupid karma-inheritance. I wonder if I can kill it and end it for him as well.

But back to the artist talk. As I was sitting in the clinic, I had my hands full because I just couldn't handle sitting there for 3 hours, and I sort of knew it would be 3 hours. So I took my little book pages and started cutting and folding for 3 hours. I almost did 5. That's how long they are taking. That's what kind of crazy and obsessed person I must be. But looking at the books I realized that I could add some of the poems to my talk and make it richer. I could try to explain the back and forth of the painting drawing writing reading that goes on in my work. When I look back, it's been that way for a while now.

One thing that is hard to explain about these paintings is why I added the subtitle to the series "A Meditation on the Puerto Rican Heart". That story goes: The painter Diógenes Ballester once recommended that whenever I go with my art, I say that I represent Puerto Rico. I thought it was a great idea and a really bad idea at the same time. For that I have to define why represent Puerto Rico, and how do I want to represent Puerto Rico. I have not lived in Puerto Rico for so long now. I go back and have few ties, few things that make me want to stay. It was a long process, subtle and painful at first, full of emptiness sometimes. I go and I feel disconnected. But I can't make myself stop going or forget or not want to go. So when I was invited to Prague, I followed Diógenes advice in the only way I could or made sense to me. As time has passed, the symbols that stayed with me the thread that still connects me to the island, were given to me by my grandmother in the form of her religion, and  the process of growing up playing with the earth around her house. And then, as life went on, integrating a certain pantheistic view of life, nature, human existence. What the paintings really say is that a Puerto Rican heart, me, can view the world as one thing, indivisible, shared, indistinguishable from one end to the other in its roundness. Yes, it is true, I will never paint the winter, which will never exist anywhere in my imagination, my dreams or my psyche, but nature itself as I paint it is not so different form the work of other artists around the world who work with this idea.

So as I was writing this blog post I got inspired to write the talk itself. And here it goes, to you, my appointed guinea pigs, thank you for lending your eyes and imagination...

Heaven and Earth, A Meditation of the Symbols of the Puerto Rican Heart

When I was very young, I was very passionate. I painted flags, I painted masks, I painted my Puerto Rican heart out and all over. But I grew up, and evolved, and one day I found myself face to face with my old self. There were no more flags in my heart. And it felt old and mature as a result.

An then a painter, a friend and neighbor, advised me to represent Puerto Rico wherever I go. I thought that made sense, I grew up there, and saying "I'm a New Yorker" still doesn't feel quite right even after more than half my life living there. But how could I represent Puerto Rico, even paint some truly Puerto Rican art if I no longer feel exited about what used to be for me the great symbols of my nationality?

One solution I found were my paintings on tile:

I still paint flags, Taíno symbols, coquís, because I play with them on my tiles. This is my playful work, the little bridges I create into people's hearts. But while these are collected and appreciated, they are somewhere in between art and craft. I do them for fun and for business, this is what I do when I am not working.

What I paint these days are the spirits of the forest, the essences I conjure from and idea made up of leaves and bark and air. And water. They are really a drawing with colors, a drawing that was words originally, or that will become words. And the colors add what I don't really know what to say.

Prague and Plátanos
Many years ago, I got sick and thought I was going to die of cancer. I must say this because it is true and had it not been for this experience I would not be here today. And it is one detail of that ordeal that has been guiding me along all these years, and it is that one day in the hospital I proclaimed: "I want to travel with my art."

My self-affirming and prophetic words came true immediately. As soon as I got better I created a series about my experience with cancer and a book of poems to go with it, and I took this project around New  York, Puerto Rico and even Dominican Republic. But I had been there before, and that did not fully feel like "travel with my art".

And one day, Life said: "You've got it!" That was about 8 years later, in 2011.

I was invited to bring my art to a park near my home and I agreed, but when the time came to go, I felt really lazy and didn't really want to go. But I had promised the friend who invited me and I like to keep my promises, so I packed and went. Once there, I just got comfortable and started talking to people.

Soon a man came by my table. I am 5' tall (or short!) and he must be about 6'4'' so he had to kind of bend to talk to me, but we got along really well and he started to see each one of the prints I had brought to the event, which was my whole portfolio. In the end he asked me if he could visit my studio.

A few days later, he came by.
"Tanya," he said, "I came here because I wanted to ask you if you would like to have an exhibition in Prague."

You can already guess what I answered...

So this was my opportunity to really "travel with my art" to a fancy and faraway place. I was not going to let it go.

Soon I began thinking of what I would bring. My mom suggested I bring the tiles, but I wanted something more, something that truly said what I wanted to say. Only I wasn't sure of what to say.

And the old piece of advice kept barking at me. "Always represent Puerto Rico..." But how?

I began a harvest of drawings, looking for clues, for things to say, for ways to connect, for images that would speak to the heart because, obviously, I don't speak czech... But I do speak Catholic, the religion of the great Hapsburg empire, and a strong part of the Czech cultural and religious heritage. I spent my younger years holding the hand of my grandmother at rosaries and churches.

During the "harvest" I realized that during all of 2011, I drew images that had some connection to Catholicism. It is a long story, but a priest held me by the wrist and implored me to "help bring poetry to the Church". As a result of my inability to say no, I created a weekly flyer of poetry and art for the church bulletin. I published my friends poetry and art, and created drawings inspired by their poetry with a touch of Catholicism. And of Pantheism, and Native American mythology, and even the occasional African santería reference. But to be truthful, the experience with the priest truly helped me bring out a part of me that I needed to recover and out of that year of drawing and brainstorming, I ended up with a series of drawings that I really liked and that more than a Catholic theme, expressed a synthesis between my grandmother teachings and my own journey as a human being.

The paintings
Sacred Heart of the Earth

Sacred Heart of the Earth, by Tanya Torres, Oil on canvas, 20" x 16", 2012.
This is the Sacred Heart of the Earth, offering its sacred gift of life. The sky, which belongs to us all, and in Spanish is a homophone of Heaven, envelops it peacefully. It once was a burning heart. Now it is covered with the layers of earth that ground it and make fruitful this endless embrace.

When people refer to this painting, they often say "the painting of the Heart of Jesus".
Many have seen the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary. Here they are:

 I didn't really go and look these up and then made a drawing. I made a drawing for a poem. Then I realized it had roots and leaves, but something about it reminded me of something else.

Heart by Tanya Torres, Drawing, 2011.
Then I wrote several poems about the heart. But this drawing did not belong to one of those. It belonged to another poem I wrote for the church bulletin:


Today you will be with me in Paradise.
You will rise,
dress and eat,
and trust that light will never leave you.

Today you will be with me in Paradise.
When tears flow down the scars
of your past,
your face will be the Earth,
that pregnant with the seeds
of a future,
turns water into life.

Today you will be with me in Paradise.
You will take just one step,
to radiance, hope, beginning,
and I will be in you,
as you will be in me,
and we will rest,

Today you will be with me in Paradise.
One thousand doves,
will wake up in your chest,
and when they fly,
they’ll saturate all you can see,
with possibilities.

Today you will be with me in Paradise.
We will erase together,
regrets, mistakes.
We’ll hold each other,
and the entire world,
in the great crevice,
that love opens.

Today you will be with me in Paradise.
Hold me as I hold you.
Our truth holds us:
a cradle for the future.

Today you will be with me in Paradise.
Pain has fulfilled its only purpose, and
It is finished.

Time passed, I got invited to show in Prague, and I mined my drawings. The heart became the Sacred Heart of the Earth. I can't tell if it was because it looked like the Sacred Heart, or because I wrote the poem with Jesus' words. If you x-ray it, then you will be able to see the bright red and yellow fire inside the heart.

Sacred Heart of the Earth, by Tanya Torres, Oil on canvas, 20" x 16", 2012.

I never meant for it to be "the painting of the Heart of Jesus". But it is. It is your sacred heart, connected to my sacred heart, growing out of the Earth and the sky, embraced and embracing. A metaphore for true existence.

Powerful Hand of the Tree of Life
 Some people have seen this:
Mano Poderosa Candle Label
I know I must have seen it somewhere as a child. My grandmother did not light that kind of candle at home, and she did not have a lot of Catholic images, but we went places. To her friends' houses, to her family houses, to rosaries, to church. And all the surreal images of Catholicism stayed with me.

And creating the poetry flyer for the church bulletin, I inevitably re-encountered all those images of my childhood. Although somewhat mixed up with other symbols.
Tree of Life Tattoo Design 
I no longer can remember which poem inspired this drawing. I spent the whole year creating the poetry publication and read and made drawings inspired by many poems. They were not really illustrations, but inspirations. A word, a phrase or an idea elicited by a poem would lead to a drawing.

I didn't mean to make the tree into a hand. It became a hand. I sometimes just take ideas from the marks on the paper, or the smudges my hand makes.

I harvested this tree for a painting I wanted to make for Prague.

Powerful Hand of the Tree of Life, by Tanya Torres, Oil on canvas, 20" x 16", 2012.
La Mano Poderosa is the type of European Catholic icon that has become syncretized with the African and Indigenous religions of America. The Tree of Life is part of almost every world religion. It is defined as "a mystical concept alluding to the interconnectedness of all life on our planet."

Like the Sacred Heart of the Earth, this tree is embraced by Heaven and sustained by the Earth. Its hand reaches up, but its roots are well planted into a material reality that provides nourishment and grounding. Like the spiritual path, it involves the material realm, but is guided by immaterial pursuits.

Whispers of Heaven
When I wrote the poem "Words," I made a different drawing inspired by it.  I remember thinking that the words could be the doves mentioned in the poem. Then the doves started going into a woman's head. And she got Frida Kahlo eyebrows. 

Words, by Tanya Torres, Drawing, 2011.
And I was not thinking about that at the time, but in my 20s Frida was my saint.

Self Portrait with Bonito, by Frida Kahlo
I read her biography like it was my Bible. I still keep her picture in a frame in my studio. And people still compare my painting to hers. 

Finally, after 20 years, Frida came out in my painting, with the colors of heaven and doves of inspiration whispering words around her head. 

Whispers of Heaven, by Tanya Torres, Oil on canvas, 20" x 16", 2012.
She is not really Frida, but Frida is definitely whispering something here. 

"Love surrounds us, holds us, makes us free to love and be loved..."  Fr. Frank Sabatté
Fr. Frank Sabatté's words seemed to define my view of God, so I painted them.
How does Love look? The words "Love surrounds us, holds us, makes us free to love and be loved..." made me think of doves whispering truths, or kissing one's hair and face as a blessing. This is the kind of love that unites all creatures, all creation.

The birds are freedom; the face is the human being; the colors are the light and warmth of Heaven. It is the right of every human being to be free, but for most of us, it is a terribly difficult task. Part of the quest is to listen to the messages of the Spirit, and accept the guidance of Love above all matters.

Mary Magdalene of the Burning Heart
There is a painting that, for me, goes in between Heaven and Earth. 

Mary Magdalene of the Burning Heart, by Tanya Torres, Oil on canvas, 20" x 16", 2012.
This is Mary Magdalene of the Burning Heart. If Frida was my saint in my 20's, the Magdalene became my guiding light in my late 30's. I studied her, I painted her, I channeled her! Well, not really, just may be, but I do have a long list of "little miracles" that she did for me. Above all, she was my guide into the realm of the wisdom of the heart.

Somewhere between Heaven and Earth, there is Mary Magdalene holding the burning heart of wisdom.
The heart is the center of wisdom, of truth. Not the actual heart, but the spiritual heart. When we accept its wisdom, our whole being becomes harmonized and synchronized with the rest of the body as well as other beings.

Science has found that the heart orders other body systems to act, just like the brain does. But it feeds on love. If there is no love, it becomes out of sync and causes everything else to do the same.

As an artist, I needed to trust that I was doing something worth doing. I know what painting does for me, it nourishes my spiritual heart, but what could I do for others through painting? I embraced the idea that if I could reach that place called the spiritual heart through my painting, then I could communicate with all human beings and may be help bring love into the world. 

On a more superficial level, I answered the question What could I do for others through painting? by interpreting the mythology of the Taínos, the original inhabitants of Puerto Rico. Because to go to Prague and to represent Puerto Rico, I needed to bring with me more of myself than just my European heritage. 

For that poetry publication, a friend, poet Luis Rodríguez, sent me a beautiful poem titled "Praising Life." He works at the EPA and his poem was truly a prayer of gratitude for life on Earth. This is the drawing I made inspired by that beautiful poem.

Praising Life by Tanya Torres, Drawing

I harvested this drawing for a painting to take to Prague.

Inriri, by Tanya Torres, Oil on canvas, 20" x 16", 2012.

But when it was done, it was no longer what it had been. The bird became red, and the flower's background is El Yunque mountain. El Yunque in Puerto Rico is like the Olympus for the ancient Greeks. That's where the gods live. And there is a story from the Taínos that was written by a Spanish priest who came to the island to bring Catholism but in the process did something unexpected and wrote down mythology and memories that make up a big part of the few references we have to these original inhabitants of the island:

"They searched for a bird called inriri (woodpecker), and before was called  inriri cahuvayal, which lives in the trees, in our language it is called pico. Those persons without male or female sex were taken, their feet and hands tied, and the mentioned bird was tied to their body; the pico, believing that the people were tree trunks, began its accustomed work, pecking and making a hole where you can ordinarily find the nature of women."  Fray Ramón Pané

And so I found that the Taínos, the original inhabitants of the island of Puerto Rico, had spoken to tell me how the nature of women was created. I know this is a flower and not a tree, but we don't really need to be so literal in art...

 Atabey Gives Birth to the Coquí

Continuing with the Taíno theme, which for me represents the Earth, I wanted to paint Atabey, the Taíno mother of all creatures, 
Taíno symbol: Atabey. Originally a petroglyph.

giving birth to the coquí, the most representative creature of the island of Puerto Rico. 
Taíno symbol: Coquí

But she began looking like the Ánima Sola or Lonely Soul, a Catholic image brought from Europe that has evolved in America to become syncretized with some of the Indigenous and African religions.
Ánima Sola Candle Label

My Atabey...

Atabey Gives Birth to the Coquí, by Tanya Torres, Oil on canvas, 20" x 16", 2012.
passionately loves the earth, life, birth. In Taíno mythology, she gave birth to the "main god" Yukiyú or Yucahu. And so, she is the Mother of God, and the mother of all creatures.

How might a goddess give birth? A fire that does not burn, a light that does not blind, but imparts life. Her little child still sings for us every evening, reminding us of who lives within our own heart.

But who gave birth to Atabey?

A friend, Dominican poet Marianela Medrano, was going to publish a book titled Diosas de la Yuca, inspired by Taíno mythology, and she wanted to use one of my paintings for the cover. I tried to make a new one for her, but was a little too slow so she went with my Taína, which I painted in 2002.

Taína, by Tanya Torres, Acrylic on canvas board, 2002.

I always keep my promises, even when I am late, so I made this drawing, which was not my best drawing, but still, I harvested it for a painting to take to Prague.

Her Spirit Remains, by Tanya Torres, Drawing

My friend's book title, Diosas de la Yuca, is a references to the Taíno goddesses of the Caribbean. The Taínos were really the same people in Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. (I suspect we have become the same people again, since my husband is Dominican and my son is half and half.) So I wanted to paint the story of the Taínos, their spirit, their essence. In Diosas de la Yuca I found a reference to a cave called Cacibayagua:

"From Cacibayagua came the majority of the people who settled the island." Fray Ramón Pané

Cacibayagua then, was the Mother Earth of the Taínos, the giver of life. That was going to be the last painting for Prague.

Inriri, by Tanya Torres, Oil on canvas, 20" x 16", 2012.
It was very hard to do this painting because the drawing was not quite right. Cacibayagua had different faces and different colors. I erased the face with paint and painted it again many times, until the water started flowing out of her hair, and the roots started growing and the green river became leaves on her clay-colored face.

When I am frustrated, or want to make my son laugh, I have a phrase:

"Great History's Goddess, Help Me!"

And she does. Because, I don't care if you don't believe in the Great History's goddess, she is very realistic. (Notice I didn't just say "real". She is not real, but she lives in human imagination, which is where reality takes shape.)

I really believe that the imagination is the womb of all creation. God is Imagination. And here She is, as I imagined, making miracles.

Because going back to my question, what could I do for others through painting?
Cacibayagua has given me an answer. Twice now.

During one of the travels of this exhibition,  Dr. Vilma Caban-Vazquez, asked me if she could use this image for her project. She is helping a group of Dominican women, formerly abused women, today business women, to build a future by owning their sewing machines and making school clothes for children.

Here is a picture of one of them receiving a gift of Cacibayagua from Dr. Vilma during a celebration. 

Cacibayagua necklace brought as a gift for the women of Dominican Republic who participate in a project created by Dr. Vilma Caban-Vazquez, Ed.D. that promotes economic empowerment for battered women. See her website here:
Cacibayagua is now their symbol of evolution into a better life of self empowerment and self-sufficiency.

Most recently, I was having a conversation in Facebook, and a person shared with me the most beautiful words. This is not a Puerto Rican woman, this is not a Dominican woman, this is a woman, a human being, someone this piece touched not through it's historical references, but through its true origin, the true origin of all art.

"You and your work have re-opened my heart and mind to the creative process of self-discovery. I was for a time closed off from that part of me. You have helped me to awake that spirit inside of me."
A work of art must work through the spiritual heart, must connect on a human level, must share more than culture, politics or religion. A work of art should be an entity that moves something in someone. Even just one person. Even better if it reaches many and on many levels. But one if fine. Because we are all one.

So back to how I began this story of the symbols of the Puerto Rican heart. What I discovered in the process of traveling with these paintings through Prague, New York, New Mexico, the World Wide Web and now, the last stop, Bloomsburg University, is that the answer to the question What could I do for you through painting? is that I bring you the symbols of my heart, which is Puerto Rican but is most of all human, so that we might find the symbols in your heart and see what comes out of that union. Because in the Imagination, in the Spiritual Heart, we are not really all that different and it is not really all that difficult to find the connections with each other. There is only one cause for joy, and that cause is love. The true origin and purpose of art. The true origin and purpose of everything.