Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Sunday's New York Times carried an inspiring story by Deborah Sontag about Cuban-born, Manhattan-based artist Carmen Herrera, who has toiled in obscurity for six decades. She painted because she had to, not because she wanted to. Not because of name or fame.

“I do it because I have to do it; it’s a compulsion that also gives me pleasure,” she said of painting. “I never in my life had any idea of money and I thought fame was a very vulgar thing. So I just worked and waited. And at the end of my life, I’m getting a lot of recognition, to my amazement and my pleasure, actually.”

In other words, she did it because it had to be done.

Other clues are there:

Her apartment is "sparsely but artfully furnished,"

Her paintings are "radiantly ascetic."

She attributes her success to "the unflinching support" of her husband, an English teacher whom Frank McCourt described as "as an old-world scholar in an 'elegant, three-piece suit, the gold watch chain looping across his waistcoat front.'

There's more:

She doesn't like to talk about herself, or accept accolades: "Ms. Herrera is less expansive about her own art, discussing it with a minimalism redolent of the work. 'Paintings speak for themselves,' she said. Geometry and color have been the head and the heart of her work, she added, describing a lifelong quest to pare down her paintings to their essence, like visual haiku."

And this:

"Asked how she would describe to a student a painting like 'Blanco y Verde' (1966) — a canvas of white interrupted by an inverted green triangle — she said, 'I wouldn’t have a student.'

And, finally:

“'I have more money now than I ever had in my life,' she said.

"Not that she is succumbing to a life of leisure. At a long table where she peers out over East 19th Street 'like a French concierge,' Ms. Herrera, because she must, continues to draw and paint. 'Only my love of the straight line keeps me going,' she said.

Read the rest here.


  1. What a sweet yogini

  2. Anonymous3:56 PM

    how do you know she's a yogini?

  3. The artist exhibits many of the qualities of a yogini, such as fortitude and humility, not being attached to the fruits of her actions, and living in accordance with what her soul, or inner intuition / Atman, is telling her to do....

    By yogini, I do not mean one who practices yoga asana - anyone can do that - but one who is established in yoga.

  4. Anonymous4:15 PM

    oh, sorry, i was confused. yes she is quite the inspiration. i just thought that maybe she practiced at your studio or something and that would have been interesting to know as well.

  5. I like her b/c she uses words like "abstemious".

    Of course what yogini pushes afternoon cocktails? :)