If you’re an art collector, a fan of artistic expression, or perhaps you just love being inspired by beautiful things, then we have a gifted artist you should know. Meet Esperanza Cortés. She is a force to be reckoned with and a talented artist you will be hearing a lot more about. This Colombian-born artist is a female powerhouse in the art community. She works from her heart, drawing on past experiences and from personal struggles and triumphs. She uses lessons from history as well as cultural influences from her youth. Her works serve as metaphors for all aspects of existence, including the female form, the struggles of women throughout history, the dichotomy of life and death, abusive relationships, transcultural experiences, Colonialism and everything in between.
Her work is multidisciplinary, and she does it all — sculpting, painting, installations, mixed media… she works with whatever medium and method of artistic expression suits her vision. And the result is a collection of work that is authentic, socially engaging and rooted in human emotions.
Her work will make you think and will force you to question everything you know and all that you don’t yet understand. And from a strict aesthetic standpoint, her works are a sight to be seen. Here is everything you need to know about Esperanza Cortés.
She Was Born in Colombia and Raised in New York City
While Cortés was born in Bogota, Colombia, she grew up in New York City – an environment she notes was multicultural and diverse. New York City is a mecca for artists, performers and creative types from all over the world, overflowing with art museums, galleries, theaters, performing arts centers and more. Cortés was definitely inspired by her surroundings growing up in New York. At the age of 5 she visited her first museum, which was the start of her time spent in world-class art institutions that would inspire her future career. She notes that her early visits to museums spurred her interest in folk art traditions, particularly of Latin America and Africa. Much of her work is clearly influenced by her upbringing and her roots. She is also a former Afro Latin dancer, and music, movement and ritualistic traditions all influence her work and how she uses her work to communicate those elements of culture and history.
Originally Inspired to Become an Artist by Houses of Worship
Another huge source of inspiration or Cortés has always been the houses of worship she frequented in her early life. During her childhood she spent a lot of time at houses of worship, and she remembers that those experiences were not just about the religion or the culture, but they were all encompassing. The churches were architectural masterpieces, the lighting was designed with artistic intentions, the smells and paintings on the walls were all creative qualities that made an impression.
Her work is also inspired by the women in her life. Her mother, her daughter, and folk tales of forgotten women are all infused into her work. In fact, she attributes the beginning of her career to her daughter, and how giving birth inspired some of her first works.
According to Susan Hoeltzel, Director of the Lehman College Art Gallery, where Cortés’ work is displayed, “the work includes a pregnant nude in low relief that floats on a blue/green encaustic ground, perhaps a reminder of the primordial sea from which we all evolved. Veins radiate out from her pubis, running down the figure to root her to the earth and upward to become the branches of a “tree of life” in full foliage. Beneath the figure is a vessel, like those intended to hold holy water, conferring a blessing and offering purification. Decorative tin leaves and glass beads embellish this altar-like composition. Defined in symbols of blood and water, this earth mother image is depicted as a powerful force of nature.”
In addition, though her mother was not an artist, she had a way of telling stories and sharing rituals that also inspired Cortés’ work. Her mother taught her how to make clay flowers, which appear frequently in her sculptures and installations.
Her work on “Throne,” a piece that resembles a chair perched up on a pedestal and surrounded by clay flowers, is inspired by her growing daughter as she became a teenager. The throne was actually her daughter’s chair that had recently been discarded, and that Cortés repurposed and incorporated into her installation.
Her Work is Celebrated and has Been Exhibited in Museums and Galleries Around the World
Cortés has had her work displayed in museums and galleries all over the world, from New York to Japan, Mexico to Spain, Germany to Colombia. She has been exhibited in The Neuberger Museum of Art, Bronx Museum of Art, Queens Museum, El Museo Del Barrio, MoMA PS1, Socrates Sculpture Park, The Mexic-Arte Museum and The Cleveland Art Museum.
And in addition, Cortés has also been honored with various fellowships, including the 2018 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, the 2018 BRIC Media Arts Fellowship and the 2018 Museum of Arts and Design, Artist Studios Residency just in the past year alone.
She Most Recently Debuted her Work at Art Basel in Miami
In addition to her other exhibitions and residencies, this past March Cortés made her debut at Art Basel in Miami, Florida. At this premier art show Cortés had several works on display at various events, including her piece OJO II, 2017, 500 eye portraits, inspired by her memory of living in Tribeca on the morning of the 911 attacks, and seeing people fleeing from the attack covered in white ash, with only their eyes visible.
Cortés Sees Art as a Connector
Through all of Cortés’ work, there is a common theme that inspires her underlying message and her goal. She believes that authenticity matters, and that art can bring people together, art can make you think differently about the world, and art can create change. In her artist’s statement for The Fountainhead residency, Cortés said:
“Art can be a vehicle for change. A connector for society. I use materials and images that speak on many levels to reach people from different parts of the world, society, culture, class, and education. I create pieces that produce a connective fiber for the viewer. My work references history – the personal, the cultural, the political, and the absent histories. The histories that never occurred. What happens to people when an alien history has been forced on them? A moment that should have occurred is aborted.”
Her work is made with the intention to inspire viewers and to allow them to see both vulnerability and power. Her life and her background, from her childhood to her family in Colombia to her career path, have all merged together to create these unique pieces of art that force you to re-examine social and historical narratives of the world. In other words, after experiencing her work you will not leave the same as when you walked in. And you will most certainly feel inspired and intrigued by what she has created.