Arts & Entertainment

Colombian lawyer who rediscovered painting during pandemic to display work in NYC

By Jorge Gil Angel

Bogota, Jun 7 (EFE).- Having sold more than 380 of her paintings over the past two-and-a-half years, life has changed for Colombian attorney Maria Esther Panesso, who rediscovered her artistic talents during the pandemic and on July 7 at the Beka Museum at New York’s Rockefeller Center will hold an exposition of her artwork inspired by women.

Her home has been converted into an improvised workshop where the canvases on which she painted accumulated while she worked as a family lawyer. Her days started early with her regular job but lasted through the evening and into the early morning hours as she worked with her easels and paintbrushes.

“We had so much free time during the pandemic that I made the decision to take advantage of that time and start painting. I began to post on my Instagram account: a painting, another painting and surprisingly they wrote me ‘I want this painting.’ So, I began selling them in what was a very organic process,” the artist – who signs her work “Mercado,” her second surname – told EFE in an interview.

Panesso found inspiration for her painting from her work as an attorney, a career in which she deals face to face with violent cases of mistreatment and machismo violence that takes the lives of thousands of women each year throughout Latin America, she said.

“When you’re a family lawyer and you see all the conflicts and mistreatment that there is in homes, your work is a little bit as a psychologist and a little bit as an attorney. So, part of my art is not only inspired by that work that my mom did when my dad died (and she became head of the household) but also by all that women experience with that mistreatment, with femicides,” she said.

She also said that the issue of migration, where Colombia has become a key player by taking in some two million Venezuelans who have fled the ongoing crisis in their homeland, seems to her to be “impactful.”

“The whole theme of my work, my life, my upbringing has connected me with art and beyond art. I want to send a message of how Latin America is, about migration, those issues that affect us so much,” she said.

Panesso said that her love for art arose when she was young and her father inculcated within her the love of painting, and she began drawing all the heartbreaking scenes from daily life that captured her attention.

“I started painting and painting and I took to heart the issue of discipline, so I really agree that while other kids were playing, he thought of (painting) as a job and he told me that I had to paint for many hours (each day),” she said.

When her father died, she became disenchanted with art. She distanced herself from it but many years later found in the pandemic an excuse to resume the hobby that has always captivated her.

One of her main inspirations is Colombian painter Enrique Grau, well-known for his portraits of Native American and Afro-Colombian figures.

That influence was marked by the close relationship of Panesso’s family with the art world. Grau is not the only Colombian painter that inspires her, she said; she has also taken inspiration from the work of David Manzur, Alejandro Obregon and Armando Villegas.

However, Panesso believes that “art is a very personal road on which you can see contrasts of things, but in the end it’s an introspective road.”

When she began to paint during the lockdown she never imagined that her work would grow into what it’s become or take her as far from Colombia as she’ll be on July 7 in New York, where after a process of having the works curated 10 of them were selected to exhibit and auction at the Beka Museum.

“The interesting thing about this is not only that it’s an exposition, but also that afterwards there’s going to be an auction of the pieces. It’s a great opportunity,” she said.

Although she’s never exhibited her work at Rockefeller Center before, Panesso said that the situation is already starting to open doors for her in other countries like Japan, where she has the chance to put her work on display next year, and in Mexico, which has offered her several venues at which she can exhibit her paintings.

“I’m happy, I’m very excited, but I also have a very big responsibility because … I’m going to represent not only Colombia but also my gender, so I have to do it in the best way,” she said.

EFE jga/bp

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