The Need to Paint and be Patient – Carmen Herrera

3/3/19
When I come across stories about
artists who bloom late in life
I become curious about their journey.

I learned about Carmen Herrera through
such a story.  Carmen had been actively
painting for over 60 years before 
gaining any recognition. She was almost
90 before she sold a work. 
 

Ms. Herrera's exploration of art began
young. At the age of eight she was
taking drawing lessons and developed a
strong discipline. She aimed for becoming
an architect but gave that up after 
a year. It seemed she was searching for
something more. 
 
She settled in NY for awhile after
marrying and took up studies at The Art 
Students League. While there she was looking
for interesting modern art and had a hard
time finding the kind of art she was
seeking. Later, both she and her 
husband Jesse Loewenthal moved to Paris 
where there was a rich artistic community. 
A variety of art movements were in the 
making. Ms. Herrera was inspired and shifts 
began in her work.
 

Herrera faced many hurdles as a woman. 
Galleries just didn't want to exhibit 
work by women. In fact a female gallery
owner met Herrera and invited her to
the gallery essentially informing her
that her talent exceed those of whom
the gallery represented. However, she
also let her know she would not be 
given a show because she was a woman. 

Herrera embraces the approach of 
"less is more" and aims to simplify and 
capture essence. She has had a strong 
affinity to line which is evident 
through out her geometric forms.
In listening to some video about her 
life in Cuba before and during the
Exile it's clear she was familiar
with unrest. I started to wonder 
how that has impacted the evolution
of her painting. Perhaps, the desire 
to simplify and contain through 
simple geometric shapes is an 
an extension and healing from 
growing up in a lot of historical chaos. 

I find the ordered shapes and 
delineated spaces of color peaceful. 
As a viewer I can enter them like a
landscape with some sense of 
safety. Perhaps this is what she was
searching for and finally found through
abstraction.

There are some wonderful YouTube video
interviews with Ms. Herrera speaking
about her life as an artist, woman
and product of the Cuban Exile. I
found her need to simply do the work 
inspiring and without pre-occupation
to notoriety and having work in major
museums.  


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