Artist Spotlight

Violeta Maya

May 31 – October 27, 2024

Violeta Maya is best known as a painter, but she is influenced by her interdisciplinary engagement with music, sound, and moving image. From each she derives critical inquiries for her practice; her works show an interest in movement, rhythm, improvisation, call and response, ephemerality, and an index of time. Resolutely abstract, her paintings conjure sensation—a speed, a volume, a temperature, and a tenor determined by her palette, gesture, and the unique way she uses negative, unmarked space.

For several years, Maya has been creating a body of work dictated by both the intentional and chance effects of her process and materials. Maya begins by soaking her canvases in water, and then applies paint to form the basis of her compositions. Because of this, her works feature both painterly gestures and areas of the canvas where it appears as if the fabric has been dyed, color diffusing into the weave. Rather than sitting on the surface, the pigment penetrates the wet canvas and reacts with the temperature and conditions of the artist’s studio, shifting, spreading, and bleeding beyond Maya’s initial mark making. In this way, the artist cedes some control, allowing space for the unpredictable. Maya can only work on a piece when the canvas is wet, demanding a singular engagement that cannot be changed or amended later. This requires that she be entirely present as she creates a work, invested only in the act of making. She has described her approach to each painting as intuitive. While she has predetermined a palette and may have a reference point in mind, she attempts to move outside of the constraints of language and iconic meaning to allow her subconscious mind to emerge. As such, each work is a true index of its creation; it is a record of the artist in the moments in which the work was made, determined by her hand, the temperament of the materials, and the conditions of the day. Maya has found a means to make paintings that allow mastery to sit side by side with the unknown variables of instinct and circumstance.

Maya created La diosa de los mares for the Olivia Foundation’s Artist Spotlight series. It is a response to the adjacent work by Helen Frankenthaler from 1963, Sea Goddess (Maya’s title is a Spanish translation of Frankenthaler’s). Frankenthaler was an influential painter of the twentieth century who used the liquidity of paint prominently in her works, thinning it with water and allowing it to saturate her unprimed canvases. This technique was called “soak-stain.” Maya’s painting process speaks to this history and La diosa de los mares, which makes generous use of empty, untreated space, is inspired by Frankenthaler’s, but she has not created an analog of the work. The correlation is there, but it is indefinite and subtle; perhaps it can be read in the palette, the dynamic movement of the paint, or the shape of the composition. Through this indirect relationship and an avowed resistance to the pictorial, Maya invites us into a space where we might allow our own subconscious to wander and make meaning.