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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sunflower Spirit

Sunflower Spirit by Tanya Torres, Oil on Canvas, 72" x 36", 2016.

I've been challenging myself to paint bigger, which is not easy for me! This painting is actually taller than me...

I call the paintings in this series Spirits of the Forest, although Emergencein my mind, is more a spirit of the water. But most of the paintings I have created in this style are full of leaves and earth, and now a giant sunflower.

Unexpected Connections

My friend Veronica de Nadie recently visited me after 10 years away from N.Y.C.  She is my beloved friend and poet from the times of Mixta Gallery. We connected through our kids, who met playing in the sandbox at Central Park. I wasn't there, but my mother in law, Doña Ramona, told her that she would like to meet me.

One day Veronica showed up at the gallery, and she asked if I needed help. I'm not sure I even knew her name at this point, but I told her yes, I would love some help, and to go upstairs to my apartment and bring down a chair or two. A regular person would have thought I was some crazy lady, which I probably was, but Veronica loved it, and that night she made her debut as a poet in the Spanish Poetry Night and it was the beginning of our friendship.

She had to leave back to Ecuador, and we didn't see each other for 10 years. But she finally visited this June, with her beautiful daughter Irina, all grown up like my son Julian, and we went down memory lane with our now college-student kids. We couldn't get over seeing them together, enlarged, so intensely beautiful. We visited the sandbox to memorialize and honor that grand moment in time when our babies brought us together (and took a picture of Irina and Julian in front of the sandbox!,) and spent several days being our old selves again.

She reminded me of so many feelings I had put away so as not to suffer her absence too greatly: it is not every day that you meet an extraordinary friend that is just right for you. She also reminded me that true love and true friendship have no time or space limits.

Veronica told me that she recently visited Cuba, and that there she encountered the Yoruba goddess Oshun, whose attribute flower is the sunflower.
"Oshun is a deity of the river and fresh water, luxury and pleasure, sexuality and fertility, and beauty and love.[1][2] She is connected to destiny and divination.[3]" From Wikipedia
I don't know a lot about Santeria or the African religions, but was glad that there is a connection to Oshun, whose color is yellow (a color that for me represents wisdom, as in the Magdalene color palette.) 

It is interesting to me that Oshun is a water goddess, a river goddess. I am from an island, but not really from the sea. My image of paradise includes this river:

This is the Salto Curet in Las Marías, and it holds up there at the top of the waterfall the scariest, most exciting moment of my life, when my friend Daisy and I decided to follow the lead of our local friends and climb the mountain to reach the top of the waterfall. We do things like that when we are 20 years old...

It looks small here, but we had to climb on roots and wet red earth, and then hug a slippery stone to cross to the other side. If things had not been successful, I would not be telling this story right now. Our friends happened to be exploring the Santeria religion at the time (and I never thought about that until writing this...) It may be that Oshun was with me after all...

I guess these are the connections that an artist makes in her mind and psyche by perceiving and absorbing all that is within and all that is around. 

Sunflower Spirit, as the other Spirits of the Forest, is the synthesis of an idea of Paradise that I carry within me. For my ancestors, the Taínos, the first beings we tree-like and had no sex. A bird (like a woodpecker) carved the sex of woman with its beak. They inhabited landscapes like the one about and their spirit remains and grows in the flora and the fauna, and even the imported species brought by history, invasions and the embrace of the outside world, including Oshun and all the Yoruba pantheon, and the beautiful sunflowers that make me so happy anytime I see them in the Mexican flower shops of my Barrio.

Monday, August 08, 2016

The Great History's Goddess

The Great History's Goddess by Tanya Torres, Oil on Canvas, 40" x 72", 2016.
When my son was little, he invented The Great History's Goddess. Since he had already declared himself an atheist, it was meant as a taunt to his mom and her spiritual inclinations. But I thought it was wonderful: A goddess who was a pure product of his young mind and that could mean anything we wanted her to mean! So at night, when he was anxious about the next day in school, we would say a prayer to The Great History's Goddess: "Tomorrow will be a great day! Tomorrow will be a great day! Tomorrow will be a great day!!!" (In order for this prayer to work, you must repeat it louder each time, until you are screaming.)

I soon began saying "Oh Great History's Goddess, help me!" (With a smile on my lips, of course!) My nephew Jean Carlos would say, "That's not a real goddess!" and I would say, "Of course she is, Julian invented her!"

Then, so many years later, I finished this painting, the largest I have painted on canvas to date, and in the beginning she was just a woman, but by the time I finished it, I had already begun work on a new series of paintings I call the Spirits of the Forest. And they are the spirits that dwell in the rainforest of my ancestral land.

And the great lady began taking on the roots and the veins of water that these beings possess, and her hair started flowing into a cascade of green. She became the mother of those spirits that dwell in my imagination.

Nowadays it is very hard to get a smile out of my wonderful teenage son, who continues to taunt me. But this painting did make him smile. He even said he liked it! I think he, by now, realizes that his mom is a very different kind of "believer". I believe in the imagination.

So the Great History's Goddess is real and magical, and here she is, big, bright, and full of life.

Available in my website store. 

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Sacred Woman

Sacred Woman, Oil on Canvas, 10" x 8", 2016.
There are so many aspects to Mary Magdalene. Sacred Woman refers to the Magdalene who was turned into a prostitute and who reemerges in the imagination as the embodiment of holiness, including the sexual aspect. This is one of the new pieces exhibited on July 22 at the Mary Magdalene Celebration. Listed in my website store.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Magdalene Fair

I was afraid I didn't have any images of the wonderful creations that my guest creators displayed at the Magdalene Fair of the Mary Magdalene Celebration, but fortunately, my young friend Taína del Mar was in charge of broadcasting through Periscope and she made several videos of the Celebration. Here is the one that showcases all the participants in the fair. To see them all, find us as @magdalene_org in Periscope and Twitter!

Here are some images of the Magdalene Fair at the Mary Magdalene Celebration:

Friday, July 29, 2016

Dancing with Mary Magdalene


The Mary Magdalene Celebration culminated in a dance by all the guests who felt inspired to dance! This video by Melissa Coss Aquino shows the beauty and energy of this special moment.

There were so many reasons for organizing the Mary Magdalene Celebration. This post would be too long if I were to mention them. The main reason was that Raquel Z. Rivera and I have been doing this event in different forms for about 10 years now, and I felt inspired to share this passion of ours one more time, one bigger time.

I was also feeling what other people who offer a promesa feel: the need for change, the gratitude for graces received, the inspiration for creating something beautiful. It took a year and help from many friends to conceive it, create all that it encompassed, and put all the pieces together.

One of my main goals was to work with other people. I had almost forgotten how pleasurable it is to share a big moment with other creative souls. And now I remember clearly, because as the day approached, the guests arrived, and the event came together, the flowing movement during the last 3 hours of preparation became proof that it is possible to experience harmony at a time that has the greatest potential for caos. A small army of friends came to help at 3:00 p.m., and by 5:00 p.m. we were done with the art exhibition, the food, the tables and most of the preparations. The doors were to open at 6:00 p.m. and we were ready early!

I had decided that it would not be perfect, but it would be beautiful. That was the goal and we accomplished it. The space was transformed with art, song, crafts, paper flowers and lots of dance.

The performances began with something I was wishing for but was afraid to announce since I was not sure if it would happen. I had invited a group of women from the now closed Holy Rosary Church in my neighborhood, beloved people who always transported me back to my childhood when I heard them sing. They are not a choir or anything like that. They are the older women of the church, whom I met around 2010, and who gave me so much love I can't even describe it. I asked one of them, Sara, if she would bring a few of the others to sing a song to Mary. It didn't matter to me which Mary. Because it all has to start somewhere. It was beautiful because they sang their hymn in Spanish, and soon everyone was singing with them, because most people there knew the song. "Ven con nosotros a caminar, Santa María ven..." Come walk with us, Saint Mary, come walk with us. It was a perfect, beautiful beginning for our promesa.

The performances followed, framed by 3 different kinds of dance: a meditation dance by Corazón Tierra, a dance-theater piece by Xiomara Evans and Marni Rice, and Bomba dance by Alexandra Vasallo.

Video by Jorge Latorre

Raquel Z. Rivera and Ojos de Sofía sang the seven songs, I lighted the candles at the altar, and finally, Alexandra came in to dance. I don't know how old she is, just that she has been dancing all her life.

Video by Ana Alicea

 During the last song, I called all the dancers to the center and they danced some more.

Video by Jorge Latorre

And then, women danced in a circle, and then everybody danced.

Video by Olga Ayala

We danced with Mary Magdalene. And the joy was so great that all who were present went home a little bit different than when they arrived.

(Photos coming soon in the next post.)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Join the Mary Magdalene Celebration!

A Creative Feast in Honor of Mary Magdalene
A Saint for Those Who Believe in the Redeeming Quality of the Creative Act


Raquel Z. Rivera will come from Albuquerque New Mexico to sing.

This July 22, 6:00-9:00 p.m., at the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center in East Harlem, NYC, there will be a peculiar gathering. Artist Tanya Torres and musician Raquel Z. Rivera, together with artists from many other disciplines, will come together to celebrate in honor of Mary Magdalene, "Our Lady of Lexington, Patroness of all faithful creative ones who don't believe in anything, but believe in the redeeming quality of the creative act." The Mary Magdalene Celebration is a free event and open to all who love Mary Magdalene or would like to know her.

Mary Magdalene has been an inspiration for Tanya and Raquel for more than a decade, and every few years, they come together to sing Las 7 salves de La Magdalena / 7 Songs of Praise for the Magdalene in honor of the mythical Mary Magdalene. The Celebration consists of an art exhibition of the paintings of Tanya Torres and a performance of the songs by Raquel Z. Rivera. This year, dancer Corazon Tierra, dance-theater performers Xiomara Evans and Marni Rice, bomba dancer Alexandra Vasallo as well as many other artisans, writers and visual artists will be joining with artwork and performances dedicated to Mary Magdalene.

The Celebration takes the form of a traditional Puerto Rican promesa and the songs are performed "promesa-style," with the voices, bodies and joy of everybody present. A promesa is a traditional offering to a saint where people gather to honor that saint through prayer and song. At the Mary Magdalene Celebration the offerings are the artistic creations of the participants, but to keep up with tradition, refreshments will be served.

The artists go beyond the most traditional interpretations of the Biblical Mary Magdalene to explore in art, dance, word and song this Christian character that has emerged in the 21st century as the most accomplished disciple of Jesus Christ, Apostle to the Apostles, priestess, mother, the Goddess in Christianity, and a constant guiding presence for the leading artists.

Although the Mary Magdalene Celebration has been taking place since 2005 in different places and formats, this year the Catholic Pope Francis declared July 22 a Feast Day for the Catholic Church, which imparts a special significance to this year’s Celebration.

To join the Mary Magdalene Celebration, please visit Magdalene.org and sign up for updates and RSVP.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Mary Magdalene Celebration: Marta Rodríguez Olmeda and Bárbara M. Díaz López

These beautiful traditional "santos de palo" of Puerto Rico were made especially for the Mary Magdalene Celebration: Magdalene Fair by artisans Marta Rodríguez Olmeda and Bárbara M. Díaz López.
When I was just dreaming this year's Mary Magdalene Celebration, I was hoping Marta Rodríguez Olmeda and Bárbara M. Díaz López would be able to join. I have loved their carved saints since I first saw them!

Through the years, we have been tent partners at many events, and little by little, I have enjoyed seeing them work the traditional Puerto Rican craft of saint carving. Bárbara was her apprentice at the time when I met them, but she is already carving her own saints. I have also loved listening to Marta's wisdom about her creations. One of the things I've learned is that Marta prays as she creates each piece, as is required by the tradition. They also use traditional woods from Puerto Rico.

I feel very fortunate that Marta and Bárbara are joining us with their beautiful saints for the Mary Magdalene Celebration on July 22. And when I saw these, I couldn't wait to share! If you need one, let me know and I will put you in touch with these wonderful artisans. I hope you enjoy this photo as much as I did when Marta shared it with me! Join the celebration at Magdalene.org!

p.s. Did you notice the heart!?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Mary Magdalene Celebration: Special guests performing!

I met Xiomara and Marni, the creators of Magdala: Stories from the Net and the Sea, through Arelis Figueroa, one of the first people who supported this project when Raquel and I were just starting. Then a few months ago, they invited me to join them at La Maison d'Art in Harlem, where they presented Magdala: Stories from the Net and the Sea. It was amazing! These two ladies have constructed their own story about the Magdalene, using Bible references, text from the Gospel of Mary and their own interpretations of the life of Mary Magdalene to create a moving and colorful play, all to the sounds of Marni's accordion music compositions! Nothing beats a woman with an accordion! 

Xiomara's dance and powerful presence transports us to the times of the Magdalene in Magdala. With  minimal accessories and props, Xiomara  becomes Mary Magdalene and Marni becomes Martha, and they take us on a journey through the Magdalene's path.

On July 22, the Mary Magdalene Celebration welcomes and celebrates these wonderful women and the play they have created. Xiomara and Marni will present the first act of the play, a play I hope you will enjoy as a full work in the future. 

Join us on July 22 at the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center to see the first act of Magdala: Stories from the Net and the Sea, and a full program of dance, song and art. RSVP at Magdalene.org

Here is your invitation, Please share and bring all your best friends!

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Mary Magdalene Celebration: You are invited!

Sometimes, when you realize your dreams, you also realize that you have no more clear dreams. I worked hard to liberate my time and life in order to be able to spend time making art, being a channel for whatever it was that I came to this world to do. And I am here, doing that. Life, the Universe, God, Love, has given me everything that I need.

But sometimes...  I can't find the will or the energy to start my day, and I get distracted with the chores of a common life. I have to stop myself from doing the dishes one more time and get to work!

The last two years have been a struggle because I now live in the same place where I work, and I miss the silence and the solitude that a separate space offers. But it was a decision, and I am sticking to it at least until I take a long trip around some other part of the world next year.

This year, however, to get myself on the right track and give myself a worthy goal to work on, I decided to celebrate the Promesa to the Magdalene, the Mary Magdalene Celebration. I convinced Raquel Z. Rivera to come all the way from Albuquerque and sing her beautiful songs. And I decided it was time to go bigger and invite other artists and artisans to join us. The event became a big dream, something to look forward to, something to craft as lovingly as you would craft a wedding or a quinceañera.

I also became my connection to the world. I have been in hiding for years now. Apart from people, form too much filling my life so that I can leave an empty space, big enough for art. The result is I have learned many things and improved in many ways, but I have also lost contact with the world and with people. I stopped writing, I stopped communicating. Even this blog has suffered. Today I realized I had not posted anything about the Mary Magdalene Celebration, which I have been working on since last year.

A little at a time, I have come back to myself. One  major goal was to join forces with others in order to make something bigger, to ask for help even when my impulse is to do it all, to expand the celebration and make it grow in joy, and fun. And with this in mind, I continued to recruit old friends and new, from different times of my life, with different skills and strengths, and asked them to contribute through those strengths a little of themselves to this celebration.

The event is taking shape. And I have realized another goal already: to publish a book with images of my Magdalene paintings and the writings about my journey with Mary Magdalene. I have already sent for a copy to revise, and have it printed in time for the event.

I also created the most beautiful invitation ever ;), a little altar with the image of Mary Magdalene of the Bees, the painting I created as this year's Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene of the Bees by Tanya Torres, Oil on Canvas, 40" x 30", 2016.
Mini Shrine Invitation (Mailed and given in hand)
Back of the mini shrine 

I created posters, lots of invitations, posts on Facebook, and new artwork to be presented that night. I am still working on the artwork and other pieces that with be part of the art exhibition and mini crafts fair on July 22 at 6:00 p.m.

A Promesa, or offering to a saint, includes food, and a friend, Judith Delerme, offered to donate the food so our guests can come straight from work and not worry about hunger! And today I recruited my mother in law, the famous Doña Ramona, who will also be cooking one of her popular dishes and supervising the distribution of food.

My friend Minerva obtained the space at the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center, another miracle of the Magdalene, because I had tried contacting the place many times without success. The Hispanic Federation let us use the space free thanks to Minerva and her commitment to making this event a success. She is the Artist Madrina (godmother) of the celebration!

My dear friend Yarisa Colón, the Poet Madrina, has been providing ongoing moral support and flower-making. We are creating an installation of red paper flowers where our guests will wear a red veil to take photos of themselves as the Magdalene. Yarisa will also be showing her beautiful collage creations. You must see them!

My beautiful friend Corazón Tierra, who has already graced us with her dance in a previous celebration, will be opening the space with a dance.

Two new friends, Xiomara Evans and Marni Rice will be presenting an act of their play, Magdala: Stories from the Net and the Sea. It is magnificent!

And Alexandra Vasallo will be dancing her ancestral bomba dance. And inviting everyone to join.

When you arrive you will be able to fill your heart with art, and many other wonderful things. Two artists are coming directly from Puerto Rico and especially for this event, Yolanda Velazquez and Iona Muniz. I can't wait to see their work!

From New York, Marta and Barbara will be showing their wooden saint carvings, Olga Ayala her polymer clay creations, Mercedes Molina her spiritual traditional Puerto Rican cloth dolls, and with her will be Carmen Ayala and Lani will be sharing their artwork, Myrna Nieves will be sharing her books, her daughter Zaadia her artwork, and María Mar will be sharing her book and overall spiritual creativity! Migdalia Santiago will be offering reiki and Lulu García too, in addition to her botanical toiletries that will inspire your soul!

On the wall and 2 tables, my art, both the Magdalene series and the new series Spirits of the Forest.

I hope that you will save the date and join us if you are in NYC! You can sign up at magdalene.org and get in my list and RSVP too.

I will be posting more about the participants and some of the art in the following days and weeks. I look forward to sharing the joy with you!

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Come by MNN!

MNN El Barrio Firehouse is pleased to Kick-off a two-year exhibition tour of artwork by the group: “7 Mujeres en Movimiento / 7 Women in Movement”. The group - which consists of talented Puerto Rican multimedia artists, educators and consultants - will showcase their art at the Firehouse commencing the Puerto Rican June 2016 festivities in NYC.

Featured artists of the event will be: Minerva Gonzalez, Tanya Torres, Carmen Ayala, Yarisa Colon, Zaadia Colon, Myrna Nieves and Taina Traverso. Opening performance by Myrna Nieves, Poet. Event curated by Taina Traverso. 

Open to the public, light refreshment will be served. The event will begin with a small reception, followed by a live taping in the main studio for future broadcast on MNN channels. For more information and to register please go to mnn.org