The Making of a Nomad Studio

The yellow scent of fresh cut pineapple!

 I never realized before today that I did not want to be like anybody else but now I know. It is chilly day  in Manhattan, I like it. The subway will arrive soon into Canal Street in what will become a beautiful NYC day.

 Two different shades of pinks, thirty three days of studio time in the city have gone by. I left New York from 12th street on a citibike up Sixth Ave and into the park, after visiting a friend. There is so much personal history of my life in these  streets and when I visit them again the past becomes vivid.

 Time is definitely present in my paintings as in my memories. Time is location and location time with interruptions. The beauty of early spring was astonishing. I did not take any pictures as I was riding the bike.  I could see a composition of a couple of blossomed trees in pink shades  by the side of the winding road. The greenery in the park surrounded it. A perfect image that might be the subject of any impressionist painting at the Met. I missed taking the picture but as I continued to cycle on that beautiful chilly crisp afternoon more compositions of great beauty came along. I realized that just  to take in the beauty  of the experience was enough of a record to keep.


A red slice of color in the picture.

 My painting practice is about beautiful serene moments which suddenly spring out of confusing days. I feel best when I am able to let my mind wander into any place that is formless. It happens randomly when I am writing or looking into my picture files. I get lost and suddenly things become clues to more fragmented memories. As more doors open, chaos and creation happens. It does not have to be a moment of genius or anything like it. It can be a tint of color in the night sky or a flash of red in the photograph of the red bus.

 We got down from the bus in the corner of the house on a full moon night. When using my camera to grab a moment, I just push the button and something magical comes along. This time it was as the red streak in the photographs projected by the red vehicle.

 With no planning comes spontaneity, being present in the right moment. We left after dinner at the pizza place owned by these two cute Italian brothers from Rome in the beach town of Pradomar. This is where my studio is located, on top of a cliff overlooking the CaribbeanSea. The house was built  by a Colombian Painter in the late 1950’s. Friendly art projects have been happening here with various artists since 2007.  At this moment we  have an artist staying here in the residency we call  Nomad Future Land. The residency is located within my studio.

 The current artist  is Isabella Ramsey and she is building this new building material she calls Canecrete. It is  made with of the bagazo of sugar cane. She is half Colombian and half British and grew up in London. After leaving the pizza place we walked a few steps, and we saw the Puerto Colombia bus coming. We decided to get on. It’s been some years since I have been on the bus, but I remember my love relationship with it. We got on and the same feeling of love and excitement overcame me.

 Pure happiness we felt as we entered the red vehicle or as it is named The “Nave Especial”, (The Special Vehicle ).  I renamed it La Nave Espacial, which means Space Vehicle. It was decorated with bright red curtains with white tassels, red lights that blink on and off, a composition of small concave round mirrors on the main glass of the bus, a hanging monkey stuffed animal, the seat of the driver covered in a red and white material of synthetic velvet and no music which was unusual.

 We asked the price of the fare and started to take pictures and laugh. Isabella asked the driver who had designed the bus. The mother of the driver, the assistant, answered. We could not take the beauty of it all,  even without a good track playing.  Many years ago I was on the bus coming back from Barranquilla to Pradomar, and had a very similar experience of pure love and joy. In the middle of the route as we passed El lago del Cisne (Swan lake), the light of the bus was turned off like in a plane when it was ready to depart and believe me it was ready to depart. You can actually feel the change of energy in that particular moment, the energy dropped from the chest to the lower belly in the beat of a pop song. Enrique Iglesias came on the radio “Es casi una experiencia religiosa” which translates into “It’s almost a religious experience.”

 Although I was just at the Whitney Biennial I had not experienced a sensation like it, nor Isabella. There was a level of realness of  life that is hard to encounter, an expression not tinted by any preconceived idea, totally natural.

 I found a movie script I tried to write many years ago about contemporary Barranquilla and my friends. Reading at that time a book by Truman Capote I came across a line which seemed perfect as a title “Real toads in imaginary places”

A dark blue movie theater

 It read: I once left a dark theater because the movie was so good I could not waste that moment of perfection. I can not  remember the name of the  movie. The feeling was that  I wanted to make sure It would not be used up and it could live there suspended for my future consumption.

 I looked up when I arrived in the city. It was a woman angel on the billboard that looked at me. She was beautiful  and looked like a rock star. With irony she  looked down  at the world thinking: I know what is happening down there, do not think you can fool me, meanwhile observing it all with her sexy twisted lips. This was the city we all had been born in between the politicians, the guerrillas, the paramilitaries, the drug people, the kidnapped, the poor, the social classes, the Indians, the black, the mestizos all of fit. As soon as I saw the angel in the advertising I knew who had done the campaign, that was how small our world was.

 I belong to two distinct realities, an emotional world and an intellectual world that inhabit different continents. Now that I have visited Europe for the past years I feel things start to make sense. There is something about being foreign in a city that gives me the freedom to think, reflect and  create other spaces in my mind.


A green Island swept away

 I started to take pictures of all the clues I saw along the shore a day less than a week after my arrival back  in Pradomar. I wondered if I could leave all the clues off my past half semi buried in the sand along the shore and move one. Or did I need to figure them out?

 The town Puerto Colombia was actually built to construct a dock to hold big ships that brought many immigrants from Europe. On April 28th 1853 the  artist Federick Edwin Church sailed from New York City and wrote this in a letter to his family. “We arrived at Savanilla, the seaport, at 1 o’clock today. The New York passage was exactly 20 days with remarkably  fine weather, perfectly clear the whole voyage”.

 In those days and up to the 1950 there was a big Island called Isla Verde in front of this coastal area  that gave protection to the beaches. Politicians and entrepreneurs decided to drag the sand off the bottom of the Magdalena River so big ships could go into the river. This sinked  “Isla Verde” into the sea forever.

 The information along that shore between the water and the land is a lot for me to take in. I think of the differences between the shorelines I have walked on. The first day of 2021, I was at the beach along the Pacific Ocean, In Venice beach, just before daybreak to witness the first sunrise.

 Verse by verse I set down invisible points to connect the lines and resolve the fragmented patterns of my life. I had a dream that it was time to release the painting I did in New York for my collector.

 Maria Elvira Dieppa

Pradomar April 2022