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Artist Maria Vasconcelos

Maria Vasconcelos, born in Lisbon, Portugal, now lives and works in Connecticut. She received a BFA from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.

While Maria was at the San Francisco Art Institute, she received the Graduate Merit Fellowship Award in 2001, the Schmidt Fellowship Award in 2002 and the Honorable Mention MFA Painting Award in 2003. She was also the recipient of The Headlands Center for the Arts MFA Residency Award in 2003.

Her work has been exhibited at Modulo-Centro Difusor de Arte Gallery in Lisbon, Portugal, and was included in the Traveling Scholars Group Show at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Vasconcelos’ work has been reviewed in the Boston Globe, Expresso newspaper (Portugal), Artweek and Portuguese based magazines: Attitude and Lux.

Vasconcelos is currently a board member of the Davidson Arts and Creative Engagement Advisory Board at Davidson College.

"My work explores cultural identity through the use of language, memory and what it means to identify with multiple nationalities. I use text, acronyms and colloquial expressions that are representative of cultures that I am familiar with. I am especially interested in examining the chaos that occurs when acquiring a new language. Through the meticulous process of reproducing words, I personalize them by either sculpting the text using acrylic wire or cutting them out of paper. Text is used repetitively in my work, causing the words to become illegible. My process involves creating, destroying, tearing, cutting and scratching my way through each piece. The continuous pattern I employ is often insistent and abstract, similar to the amorphous process of learning a new language. A mantra like experience begins to materialize as the words blend into one another, creating a new rhythm and meaning."

Tell us a little about yourself (where you are from) and your background in the arts.

I am Portuguese but moved around when I was young from Portugal to Belgium and to the US. Leaving my country, having to adapt to new cultures and learning new languages has tremendously informed my work. I have always gravitated towards making art as a means to discover my identity and a way to process the world around me.

What kind of work are you currently making?

I am currently finishing two wall pieces: Esperança II and Saudade. Both of these pieces are being created by weaving words together that I have made out of wire. "Esperança" and "saudade" are Portuguese for hope and the longing for or missing of someone or something. I find these words very powerful and love the way they sound in Portuguese, I hope to transmit that into this work. I have also just started a new Esperança piece that will hang from the ceiling and dangle on the floor.

What is a day like in the studio for you?

A typical studio day for me is starting off my day with some type of physical exercise before getting to the studio, I find that sets my morning. Once I am in the studio, I start off by reading a poem, this serves as a sort of meditation and helps me transition into my work.

Currently I am reading poems by David Whyte, Sylvia Plath & Frank O'Hara. I try to stay in my studio for as long as I can, but because of my teenage kids, I still need to run around with them sometimes. I do have my studio in my house which helps me to better integrate my daily studio work with mom duties as well. It does feel like a juggling act all day long!

What are you looking at right now and/or reading?

I am reading Katy Hessel's "The Story of Art Without Men" & "Since When, a Memoir in Pieces" by Bill Berkson. I am looking at and photographing graffiti, dilapidated walls in NYC.

I am especially interested in those ignored walls and areas in NYC that most people walk by without noticing, and would probably find dirty and ugly. I am also looking at ceramic work, especially by Tony Marsh, Kathy Butterly and Arlene Shechet.

Where can we find more of your work?

Instagram: mj___vasconcelos

I will be included in the Friend of the Artist book, volume 17, that will be launched this Fall/Winter 2023.

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