artist spotlight Oct 03, 2017


ARTIST SPOTLIGHT #14:  Ana Maria Velasco

By Cynthia Underwood

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Ana at work:

We bring our own ideas to what a work of art means. Our ideas about the meaning of a piece of art are based on our own education, our experiences, how we interpret what the artist says about the work and a whole multitude of other things.

One person may see blue and think of an outfit for an infant boy while another may see blue and associate it with the time they snuck out of their house as a teen and saw a band where each member had blue hair.

Artist Spotlight delves into finding the nitty gritty of what the artist is thinking, why they made the piece and what they are trying to convey through it. Is the artist into punk rock? Are they broke? Where do they live? What informs their work? Why do they scribble? Why do they make monumental land works? WHY? This is what Artist Spotlight explores. Artist Spotlight uncovers what's happening in the art world today. This is where we are today in the art world. This is art now.

 Cynthia Underwood says: I first met Ana at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts where we were both graduate students. We saw each other often in the graduate studios working on our respective art. It was when I saw her large scale painting, Luna Lena, with its river of roses, canyons with militia men and other-world sky scenes, that I simply had to know more about her work. Ana’s work is at first glance carefree and then with deeper investigation imminent dangers become apparent.

 Luna Lena 6 feet x 6 feet:

Luna Lena detail from top left of painting:

Why is her subject matter so delicate yet so full of impending violence? What is it about Ana? What are her experiences that compel her to communicate beauty, interconnectedness and also war imagery to us in the same piece of art?

Ana grew up in a vibrant family of writers, political leaders and activists in Bogota, Colombia during the scary years of narcoterrorism. (here’s a YouTube video about what narcoterrorism is: narcoterrorism). She also lived in Nicaragua during the turbulent years of dictatorship and revolution and then in the more peaceful Cambridge, MA and now in New York City. 

In looking at the details of Ana’s imagery it’s apparent that she absorbed the turmoil that was happening around her during her turbulent childhood. Her work presents us with narratives from her life of military battles, of soccer games, of lush flora that all tied together seamlessly. The people she includes are writers, yogis, children, politicians and the ever-present militia of her childhood years. She lays out the imagery in her paintings in a fluid manner with roses effortlessly becoming canyons, canyons effortlessly becoming militiamen and militiamen effortlessly becoming soccer players and so on. Through her dream-like compositions and narratives the viewer is easily transported into her experiences.

 Luna Rosa 2014 Acrylic on canvas 11 feet x 6 feet 

 Luna Rosa detail from top left:

Luna Rosa detail #2 from top center:

Ana’s most current body of work centers on her experiences during her two year stay in La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia with the Kogi people who live a primitive lifestyle in the mountains. They follow the teachings of "Aluna" or "The Great Mother," and believe that she is their creator. They are concerned with protecting the earth and are also a very private community of people who let nearly no one enter into their fold as intimately as Ana did.

Ana says, “I wanted to meet the Kogi people from the first time I heard about them which was in a documentary called “From the Heart of the World”. She goes on to say, " I was intrigued by them. I wanted to move to Santa Marta and I made it happen."

“I gained the Kogi’s trust through teaching yoga in a local park and slowly but surely meeting them and becoming friends with them.  Before long I was invited to live with them. They say that La Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria calls you and that is exactly what happened to me.”

 In the photo below Ana is on the left and the two others are Kogi people. The hut is one of their homes.

The Kogi believe that there are connections between all living beings. These connections are represented by invisible threads of gold that are woven throughout the region from person-to-person and thing-to-thing.

This metaphorical weaving and interconnectedness can be seen in Ana’s latest series. In her painting Aluna she paints a ribbon that is “woven” around the people connecting them. The first photo below is the entire painting and then there is a detail below it where the ribbon is easily seen connecting people. Below that photo is another detail photo where imagery relating to war and rescue as embodied in the plane dropping food and goods is visible.

Aluna 2016 Acrylic on canvas 7 feet x 5 feet


Detail of Aluna from middle-left where the ribbon connecting people and things is seen. There is also a self-portrait of Ana connected with Mother Earth and the Kogi's by way of the ribbon.


 Ana close up painting Aluna with her self-portrait visible to the left of her hand:


I asked Ana about her experiences as a foreign-born artist in America and also for her advice about how to get started in the art world for foreign artists.

She says, “Once you no longer live in your country of origin you no longer belong anywhere. Your worldview changes when you’re an immigrant; when you are in exile. Because I moved around so much as a kid and also as an adult, the feeling of not truly belonging anywhere has become normal for me. I’ve become exceptionally interested in having roots somewhere, to have a "home”, a sense of belonging. I think this shows in my work, or at least I feel it in my work.”

She says, “You have to be very resilient to be an artist in NYC. You have to truly love making art and be willing to make sacrifices. The competition to get into shows is the same between those born in The US and foreigners, although some rules change when you are from a different culture. I am not sure if that is good or not. I think there are benefits and disadvantages about being a foreigner. In a place like NYC, though, it seems like nearly everyone is a foreigner.

Something good will come about when you work with focus and with love.  My advice to foreign and up-and-coming artists is to pour your love into your work and very importantly, to be sure to let others see your work. I look for any opportunity to show my work in galleries and to collaborate with other artists. I am always looking to expand my community and to be vibrant in my community of art lovers in the “civilized world” now that I’m back from living with the Kogi’s. I recommend to all artists, foreigners and not that they seek out opportunities to build community and to show your work."

Thank you so much Ana. I appreciate you!



Ana earned an MFA from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University in Boston. She earned her BA from El Instituto Departamental de Bellas Artes in Cali, Colombia. Ana also studied Tibetan Art for a decade at The New York Tibetan Art Studio. In 2005 she founded NEEM, a 501 (c) non-profit organization dedicated to promote art, yoga and meditation as alternative therapies for healing and forgiveness for children and adults affected by violent conflict and trauma. She now lives and works in NYC.

Ana's facebook page:

Ana’s website:


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