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Artist shares colorful world

Ryan Graff

On Wednesday Alicia Matesanz de las Heras walked down Carbondale’s Main Street in mostly orange and very bright floral pants. On top she wore a thick fur and leather vest, red sweater, and purple-lensed glasses.Even in Carbondale, a town where cops in tie-dyed uniforms don’t turn a head, Matesanz de las Heras did.On the street Matesanz de las Heras turned heads, but when she walked into the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities Gallery, she looked right at home. The paintings on the walls were as bright as she was – red, white and orange. The color coincidence wasn’t all that amazing, since she created most of the art for her month-long show currently on display at the gallery. Matesanz created three series for the show, most of it inspired by her native Spain. One series, “Meninas,” consisted of mixed-media pieces that look like paintings covered in glass. They were based on “Las Meninas,” which Diego Velazquez painted of Philip IV’s daughter and the noble children she played within the 17th century. To create her “Meninas” paintings, Matesanz first sculpted child figurines, then took a digital picture of them, then covered the digital images with everything from Sharpie markings to rice paper and acrylic paint. The end effect is a series with incredible depth and color that only a strong will can keep you from dragging your fingertips across.”Toreros” features canvas paintings and sculptures of matadors, inspired by Spanish bullfighting. “Plaza 1,” a painting, reflects the emotion of the bullfighting arena, with bold red representing the bull, gold representing the arena and a blur of red and white representing the emotions of the bullring. The emotion, and beauty, of the bullrings are what attracted Matesanz to the subject. “I don’t like killing the bull,” she explained. But “the light at five in the afternoon,” the intensity and the dance between bullfighter and bull make the bullring a beautiful place. Matesanz also created three matador sculptures using the Japanese raku technique.Spain has many matadors, she explained, but only a few get to perform in the biggest arenas. To get to the big arenas young bullfighters must receive the blessing of an older bullfighter, which is what Matesanz depicted in her almost-life-size sculptures. Matesanz also created a “Figures of War” series, which features mostly small, black sculptures covered from their head to the top of their thighs with square cloaks. The centerpieces of Matesanz’s show though, are clearly the pieces with Spanish origins. From the American perspective, Matesanz couldn’t be more Spanish. She sprinkles “bueno” though her accented English when she begins a new thought. She’s a bullfighting fan, a one-time classical guitarist and a flamenco instructor.”It’s very different,” she said of flamenco. “It’s really intense. It expresses all the emotions from birth to death.”Which is not unlike her attraction to bullfighting.Matesanz has a unique perspective on the world, though, having been born in and raised for the most part in Madrid, studying design and photography. Then she worked as a photojournalist for a Japanese newspaper before working with tourists on photo safaris in Kenya. Twelve years ago she landed in Aspen and was a ski instructor before her body gave way and she dedicated herself to her art. Through all her travels though, the core of her show at the CCAH gallery is Spanish, from matadors to her 21st century view on Velazquez’s 17th-century art. What: Alicia Matesanz de las Heras exhibit When: Now through Jan. 7Where: CCAH Gallery, 645 Main St. in Carbondale.


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