In our weekly “You’re Cool” feature, we’ll share leading artists, musicians, scientists, journalists, comedians, athletes, social activists and entrepreneurs who inspire us and who you should know. Art collectors and enthusiasts, sit up straight! This week is for you. Maria Berrio, you’re cool.
One of the most interesting aspects of fantastic Colombian mixed media and collage artist Maria Berrio‘s work is that she so often features women. Of course, many, many artists tend to depict women and the female form, but Berrio’s aren’t typical portraits. Like fellow contemporary artists Mickalene Thomas and Wangetchi Mutu, Berrio creates women that seem like goddesses, fantastical in their presence.
Berrio’s women, artfully dubbed “Muses” by Artsy (h/t and thanks for turning us on to her work!) are based on her understanding of Latino myth and folklore, inspired by powerful female leaders like MadreMonte in Colombia.
Though born and raised in Bogota, Colombia during the 80s and 90s, Berrio currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. There, she is one of about 70 members of the renowned EFA Studio Program, which provides affordable, long-term studio space to established artists. Despite living in New York, her roots in Colombia are a binding theme in her work. In her collages, you can see the lushness of the landscape of her youth and its paradisiac impenetrability.
Like another famous artist, Gustav Klimpt, Berrio’s artwork is detailed, emotionally dense, and impossibly atmospheric. Made primarily of Japanese rice paper, her work has the delicacy and substance of a dream. But where Klimpt painted his figures, Berrio constructs them.
“There is a pleasure in the raw physicality of the art form – not simply applying a medium, but tearing it, forming it, cutting it, spreading glue with sticky fingers, feeling the various textures of the different papers. […]
“With the paint that I use in my works, I find the material controls me, while with the papers I use, I find the material surprises me. This is a dichotomy that is forever fascinating. At time it seems I am more excavating a mystery hidden below the canvas than creating a work, ideally to convey that sense of awe and wonder at the majestic, enigmatic beauty of things.”
– Maria Berrio, in a Q+A with Rocio Aranda-Alvarado, Curator, El Museo del Bario
Earlier this year, she had a critically acclaimed solo show at Praxis Gallery in Chelsea, and her work is currently on view at El Museo del Barrio, New York’s premier Latino museum. If you’re in New York, definitely check it out!
+ Does Maria Berrio’s work move you? Why? What other emerging artists make you feel inspired?