Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene: Marcela Santamaria

With the internet being so easy to access, it has become easier for independent artists to find an audience and let their work be known. As a result, a variety of movements, collectives, and scenes have found a way to pave their path. The independent art scene in Puerto Rico is no different. Recently, many artists from a variety of disciplines have found platforms that have made it easier for them to share their work. In addition, small businesses such as Electroshock in Santurce and Rio Piedras, bars like Off The Wall in Mayaguez, book stores like La Casita Books and Gifts in Aguadilla, Libros AC in Santurce and Libros 787 online, and independent festivals like Feria de Libros Independientes y Alternativos and Tintero: Festival de Cómics y Arte Independiente de Puerto Rico have provided up-and-coming artists a space to display their talents. “Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene” is a series of  interviews that provides a glimpse at some of the women who have recently gained recognition in the art scene. Though the artists are asked similar questions, some are asked queries surrounding their work, specifically.

What’s your name and what do you do in the arts?

My name is Marcela Santamaría, I’m a sixteen year old studying in  Academia Maria Reina. I am currently taking the Experimental Drawing and Painting course offered by Annie Fernandez. As of now, I am not a professional, I’m just experimenting with new techniques to expand my knowledge in the arts. Later on, I’m planning to choose a specific area in the arts and devote my skills into it.

What got you into the visual arts?

Who got me into visual arts was a very special teacher, Damaris Santiago. It all started in eighth grade when I took the “Introduction to Art” course . I knew I loved art, but once I entered that classroom I got intimidated and said to myself “ I really don't even know how to paint, what am I doing here?”. The teacher overheard me and answered “This is what I am here for, to help you learn”. That was the day when it all started. Ever since, I’ve worked harder and harder to be able to plaster my visions into work of arts.

How did you develop your style?

At first, I was very strict when working with references since that was what the class demanded me to do. However, as I started being more confident while working, I started making my own alterations. For example, I started incorporating more color to my paintings. Playing with different colors is essential to developing your own style. If you look at my works you can see that I love using vibrant colors to capture the viewer’s attention.

How has it evolved through the years?

My style has evolved through the years as I set new artistic goals. As time passes, my works gets more complex. By taking on harder projects like for example painting hands, I master unknown techniques that continue developing my artistic style. It’s about taking risks and delving into the art culture.

What are some of your influences and inspirations?

My major inspiration has always been Frida Kahlo. She’s a basic art legend that even someone who doesn't know anything about art probably knows who she is. But, for me, it’s more than that. I’ve been looking at Frida everyday for 6,119 days. Throughout all my life, I have woken up to see a huge painting of her in the wall next to my stairs. I was always very mesmerized by it and thought of it as a masterpiece. However, as I’ve grown older and wiser in this field I have been able to spot all of the mistakes it has. This is why, one of my currents projects is fixing this painting and incorporating my own style to it.


What do you think about the current state of the arts in Puerto Rico?

I think that the current state of the arts in Puerto Rico is growing more and more everyday. This can be seen a lot in the streets, especially in Santurce with the “Santurce es ley” movement. In fact, I incorporated the colorfulness and the positive effect of these murals in my Vice President of the Student Council campaign. There are also a lot of upcoming artistic movements like the esopega stickers. I’ve been following her for a while now and she is starting to make art pieces with her stickers, which I think is very interesting and unique.

If a young girl came up to you and said she wanted to be an artist, what would be your advice for her?

If a young girl came up to me an said she wanted to be an artist, my advice to her would be “to follow your own vision to develop your style. There’s always going to be at least one person who appeals to it. Everyone has their own way of expressing art, you make the best of it.”

What is your biggest goal right now?

My biggest goal right now is to put together a strong and outstanding portfolio so I can show my talent to many art schools. I will be graduating soon and I need to start looking for what my next step will be. I also want to build more confidence in my art skills since sometimes I still get a little intimidated when I’m about to learn new techniques.


What do you seek to achieve with work?

I seek to leave the spectator thinking about what’s the meaning behind my paintings. I’m aware that every person develops a different meaning for my works and that’s what fascinates me. I also seek to spread awareness or bring attention to the theme that my paintings express. Doing this by being different is what I most enjoy!


All of the pictures in this article were provided by Marcela Santamaría