Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Isidora Paz Lopez, Ceramist, Mosaicist and Muralist, Tells Her Story

I am a Chilean ceramist, mosaicist and muralist. In the past 5 years my main interest has been to make public art and create community projects.

I am part of the third generation of an artist family. Art has always been present in my life. My grandfather is a great painter, but I cannot say that I was influenced or that I learned from him because there is not too much that we shared. 

This black and white photo was taken the first time I met my grandfather. We are in front of the Museum of Fine Arts in Santiago de Chile. He was a professor there when the art school was in the Museum before the Pinochet dictatorship. This is a historical picture -- I remember this day. We went inside of the Museum and my mom and grandpa started to remember some histories. In the past he had his studio in the top of this palace, and when my mom was a little girl, she used to spend a lot of time there. She said that this Museum was like her house and she was the princess of this place. So, I started to feel like a princes too.

With my Grandfather Eduardo Martinez Bonati in1982

My grandmother, Carmen Garcia Rodriguez, was also an artist. Unfortunately, shortly before I was born she was killed. Her spirit has been always present in our family and her artwork has been preserved as a treasure. I identify with her a lot.

My mother is a ceramic sculptor, an autodidact multi-faceted artist. She lives in a very special way. She is the kind of person that makes art like a normal ritual of life, making art with the simple things of every day, like her way of presenting food on the table, or arranging her altar, or even her in the clothes she chooses to wear. She is always looking for beauty and esthetic harmony around her, living her life in a very romantic and fanciful way. She was my first “art school”.

Weaving with my beautiful mother, Elisa Martinez Garcia

Our family got split up when the Pinochet dictatorship was in Chile in 1973. Most of the family on my mother’s side moved to Europe. We stayed in Chile and I grew up in those dangerous and chaotic times when cultural development was punished. There was a lot of censorship and limitation for artists because all artists were suspected of being subversive.  It was natural to be a rebel in these circumstances, especially if you have a critical view of society and have chosen to be an artist as an option for life.

My adolescence was very conflictive. I was in crisis with the adult world because of the fake behavior of the adult people, including my parents. During those times seniors disappointed me and I didn't trust anyone. My friends, artists, and party mates became my family and I started to disconnect from mine and be more on my own. The street was like my second home. I liked to frequent underground clandestine places filled with ambience and freaky people (I still do). For me, at that time, they were more authentic. With them, I felt more affinity and containment. In my teens I was far from what society expects of a good young girl. I felt very marginal, unaccepted, undervalued and unloved.

In the same way that you can make art out of trash, broken tiles, or unexpected materials, making something good out of something useless… art as philosophy of life helped me to survive those difficult moments and turn them in something better. Bad experiences, pain, suffering, loneliness, fears, confusion, depression, all kind of bad feelings can be released through artistic experience. In my case, art has been a great therapy that saved me in many moments, allowing me to recycle emotions, helping me to find my center and in a concrete way led me to realize not to waste my life and instead be useful.

Ceramic Semi-Reliefs in Raku

Since I was born I have never lived in the same house for more than 4 years. With my mom we constantly moved from one place to another. With so many changes of neighborhoods and schools, I got used to leaving people along the way and moving on. When I left my mother’s house at age 19 I continued this gypsy lifestyle. Even though I always wanted to find a place where I could settle down, that did not happen. Now I am 41 years old and I have lived in 26 houses.

Actually I am living in Germany the past 2 - 1/2 years, with my husband and my 3 kids. And what does this have to do with my art?  I mention this to point out that the constancy of making art is the more stable thing I have had throughout my life. To be an artist is the only thing that I always knew for sure about me. 

Over my life I have been so many different versions of myself. Even if some of these styles have nothing to do with each other, all these facets were an authentic reflection of the moment that I was living. Some periods were very masculine, others were very feminine, and some periods I was fanatical about exercise. Other times were more mystical and spiritual.

Everything is part of constantly discovering who I am. Unraveling Pandora’s box inside of me is sometimes full of contradictions. But the one part of my identity that doesn’t change is my passion for making art. This is the biggest motivation that I have and is something essential in my growing and my validation as a person.

Two of the principal energies that move my life are art and love. Art is the expression of my spirit, what I try to give… and love is the necessity of my heart, what I try to get. It is not just the money I get paid for my work, it is also the love and gratitude I receive from people. That is food for my ego, but mainly, it is love healing my heart.

Because of my work I learned to be proud of the life that I have chosen to live. Art makes me brave as a warrior, fighting for my dreams. So many times I have seen how conservative or normal people have looked down on me because they believe that art is a hobby, not a real profession, and it is even worse if you are a woman. But, as Madonna said in one of her recent speeches, “All these people who have despised me, all those who have put obstacles in my way, they have, in fact, empowered me more and made me stronger”.

Totem, Pirque, Chile, 2009

When I started to study art I didn’t know what specialty to choose, because I liked them all. I liked to paint, to make sculptures and try all different kind of materials. I finally chose ceramics as my specialty, because I could integrate volumetric forms and color at the same time. My work has always been very experimental. I have created sculptures, semi-reliefs in Raku, musical instruments in ceramic and different kind of decorative objects. Sometimes I do small things full of little meticulous detail and other times I make artwork in large formats, like the Totem and my expansive mosaic mural projects.

I like to take on challenges in my work and see what comes out when I make something new. Also, when I like a technique, I try to explore it and use all the possibilities it gives me, trying to improve my skills in every new creation. In artwork, there is always something more to learn and put into practice.

My great aunt, Paulina Concha Bonati, visiting the mosaic mural work
in a metro station in Puente Alto, Chile

It was the year 2011 when I began to do mosaic and I fell in love with the technique. Making mosaic murals in the streets I discovered a new passion for making public art. This experience opened a new dimension of possibilities, giving a turn in my growth as an artist. In 2012 I was commissioned to lead a very large mosaic project, covering 83 pillars and 4 stations at the metro train that crosses Puente Alto.

More than 100 people participated in the creation of 4.000 square meters of that mosaic. It was an extraordinary experience – an intensive work commitment and learning taking nearly two years non-stop, with a lot of gratification after the work was completed.

Mosaics bring benefits that you see over a long period of time. Street art takes part of the identity of a place and inspires the surrounding community. Art integrates and connects people. I really like and enjoy all the phases of community projects. The interaction between artists -- learning from each other – the friendship that are built and the union of forces is indescribable. Teamwork is fundamental for make big things and it is a big life-learning lesson too.

I am very thankful for all the opportunities that life has given me as an artist, and for all the wonderful people that I have worked with from my homeland as well as all around the world. Genial artists, lovely friends, fantastic people that have contributed to make great things happen, have all been part of this creative journey I am living.

Mosaic Team, Puente Alto, Chile 2012

Over the last 4 years some of my fantasy projects have materialized and I have achieved much more than I ever expected. This gives me a lot of energy to keep going and strengthens my belief in my creative intuition. My self-esteem and confidence continues to grow like a beautiful lotus flower emerging from the darkness of the past difficult years. And this magical transformation inside of me is still going on. I am continually learning to trust more in the divine force that moves us all.

Thanks to art I have learned to love me and love life more. Being an artist is a big blessing, it gives me hope and strength and desire to share this love with the rest of the world. Because of this I am so fascinated with doing public art. Art for everybody, art that can transform, improve spaces and provoke a a myriad of feelings in people.

Mosaic mural in homage to the Mapuche
Community in Puente Alto, Chile

Life is beautiful, wonderful, and so very generous. Nature is amazing and our human capacities are infinite. Every living being is unique. We are the creators of our lives and our histories, and as free creators we can convert our reality in a positive way, every one of us potentially has this power.

I like to think that I have chosen a good mission because bringing art to the streets is necessary. I think that this world, in the insane times that we are living, needs an urgent change of vision to see life in another way. We need to open our hearts and consciences and stop the destruction. Maybe I am too naive, but I really believe that art can help to change the world for the better.

During the making of the mosaic mural Carnival Nymph the wonderful
carnival dancers of San Nicolás visited us, Aruba, 2016

This is the final post of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks for 2016. Thank you for reading and sharing Isidora’s story today. To connect with her and see videos and photos of her work, please visit the following links.


Architektur Fachmagazin ( pages 8 and 10) : 
Mosaic Art Now 2012 : 
Mosaic Art Now 2013 : 
Revista Capital, Chile: 



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