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Contrasts in Life and Art

"Portrait of the Artist's Mother," oil on paper, 2018
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A painter’s cross-cultural upbringing empowers her to see beauty in juxtaposition and contrasts.

By Miranda Blas

As a young child in Santiago, Chile, where I lived near my father’s family, I learned Spanish and English simultaneously and was always encouraged to make art. My Chilean father and American mother ran a theater company there with players from many different countries.

Later, after moving with my family to northern Colorado, I realized how this shaped me personally, culturally and artistically.

My life has been marked by contrasts in language, ethnicity, culture and place. These varied textures, accents and flavors somehow highlighted artistic contrasts, like the beauty of deep shadows beneath a brilliant sunset or the vibrancy of an orange brush stroke on top of a blue one.

In painting, it’s the contrasts that supply drama, interest, balance and unity.

(LEFT) “Portrait of the Artist’s Father,” oil on paper, 2018; (MIDDLE) “Portrait of the Artist’s Mother,” oil on paper, 2018; (RIGHT) “Leah,” oil on canvas, 2017

Similarly, my Latina and white American heritages are contrasting. Yet they also form a beautiful unity. This appreciation of culture and beauty led me to the Great Books program at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

After graduating from St. John’s, I moved to Aix-en-Provence, France, to study at the Marchutz School of Fine Arts. There, I learned to put brush to canvas in a way that truly honored all of my contrasting parts. Coming from a third-culture background prepared me to readily immerse myself in French life. As my experiences there grew richer, so too, did my knowledge of self and my artistic practice.

(LEFT) “Sunset at Bellvue,” oil on paper, 2017; (RIGHT) “Santa Maria Della Salute,” oil on canvas, 2017

Now I paint, sculpt and teach in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As I stand in front of a motif in the landscape or a loved one seated for a portrait, I am concerned with balancing various contrasts of color and value. I work quickly and intuitively, processing my direct experience, always trying to experience joy in creation.

I also teach young children, and can only hope to help cultivate in them the sense of self that was instilled in me at a young age.

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