By Héctor Abad Faciolince
I believe that the God of this lively, terrestrial artist is closer to the pantheistic God of the kindly heterodox Jew Baruch Spinoza than to the Olympian God of the Church fathers. González looks at our natural surroundings—animal, vegetable, mineral—and paints and models them with extraordinary gentleness, yet in the manner of Spinoza as well, sub specie aeternitatis, which is to say, in their eternal aspect, as if something immutable and fixed in the drawing or the object suspends its flow.
I recall the first work of hers that impressed me and that immediately, in an egoistic impulse, I wanted to possess, to have at my side: it was an uncanny view of a waterfall that has been drawn, painted and portrayed so many times in Colombian art history, but that in Ana González’s hands was forever at a standstill among the rocks. There was in her gaze upon the Salto de Tequendama something new, portentous, pantheistic, telluric and erotic at the same time. The odd part is that she didn’t see it that way. It takes other eyes, other gazes and other words to understand what we are doing with art (and what art does with us) without realizing it. I myself often don’t really know what I have written until others read it and explain it to me.
When my eyes pass over the work of Ana González—her refined weavings, her drawn silks, her porcelain sculptures, her altered and tattooed photos, her mountains, her Quindío wax palms, her hummingbirds and trees and flowers—the first thing it evokes in me is the mystic poetry of St. John of the Cross. He, like she, names what he has been seeing, the miracles that appear along his path:
O groves and thickets / Planted by the hand of the Beloved; / O verdant meads / Enameled with flowers, / Tell me, has He passed by you?[i]
A thousand graces diffusing / He passed through the groves in haste, / And merely regarding them / As He passed / Clothed them with His beauty.
There is something in the gaze of a true artist, and something in her being, that permeates the seen with her figure, that imprints the observed with the qualities of whoever observes and then recreates and reproduces what has been seen. This is the mystical touch that I see in the way Ana González looks at what surrounds us: the miracle, and even the destruction and devastation of the paramo (a unique geographical accident in the world, found only in the tropical Andes, as extraordinary and fragile as any other environment), gets tinged with the purity of her gaze. This can only be understood once again with the poetry of St. John of the Cross:
My Beloved is the mountains, / The solitary wooded valleys, / The strange islands, / The roaring torrents, / The whisper of the amorous gales;
The tranquil night / At the approaches of the dawn, / The silent music, / The murmuring solitude, / The supper which revives, and enkindles love.
The artist names (paints) the beauty that she sees and then, in beauty, constructs her own strength, her own stronghold:
Light-winged birds, / Lions, fawns, bounding does, / Mountains, valleys, strands, / Waters, winds, heat, / And the terrors that keep watch by night;
By the soft lyres / And the siren strains, I adjure you, / Let your fury cease, / And touch not the wall, / That the bride may sleep in greater security.
Ana González constructs with her mimetic and mystical art—with the svelte palms in her pieces, the hummingbirds withheld in a gesture, the immense mountains, blooming orchids, firm and fragile frailejones—a personal paradise, our own Andean paradise, vulnerable, violated, threatened, besieged and sometimes already lost, but preserved in all of her work, her loving gaze, and embraced by her in a heroic attempt to protect and preserve, what I might dare to describe using an adjective sadly devalued today: maternal. Thanks to her, we return to look at the whole, our prodigious natural world, creations that are the god Pan himself, with new eyes that invite us to love and care for what we are already on a path toward destroying and losing.
[i] St. John of the Cross. A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ. Translated by David Lewis. New York: Benziger Brothers, 1909.