superstar of culture

noun [ C ] / su·​per·​star of cul·​tur /

a cultural change-maker; a champion of all things arts, culture, and education-related; a leader within the arts and culture field; an individual that we can all learn from

see also: cultural superhero, cultural role model

  • Clare Murray

Teresa Gancedo, the artist teaching us to look, see, think, and then think even more

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that it can oftentimes tell a story better than any book or written verse. They say this about Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, DaVinci’s Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Paul Gachet, Whistler’s Mother, and Picasso’s Guernica, to name a few (apologies for the seemingly male-bias). When they say this, they consider the content, the mood, the colors, and the mindset. They find themselves absorbing emotions, interpreting events, and questioning contexts. Though they may not have had the fortune to attend the recent retrospective of Teresa Gancedo at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (MUSAC) in León, Spain, I am certain that they would say the same (or more, as I did!) about each of her works of art through the ages.

Arranged with chronology in mind, the retrospective of Teresa captured her essence as an artist motivated by meanings and enraptured by memories. It displayed pieces that invited spectators to travel through unknown places and imagine far-reaching spaces. It concerned itself with our basic human needs. And it wove together different paintings, objects, engravings, drawings, and installations such that “a creative universe as personal as universal and as simple as powerful” was founded, as explained by the Museum’s director and exhibition’s curator, Manuel Olveira.

The universe that it enshrined followed the trajectory of Teresa from León to Madrid and later Barcelona. Though eloquently ordered and presented, it related the biography of a woman born amidst Spain’s violent Civil War and deeply affected by the atmosphere thereafter. Each piece of the universe that it represented carried detail-work so thoughtfully made and arranged that spectators could not help but enter into the mindset behind them. For me personally, the pieces that it featured intrigued me so markedly that I went ahead on a pilgrimage-of-a-sorts to meet and learn more about this certain Superstar of Culture, Teresa Gancedo.

Teresa, though now retired from teaching at the Reial Académia Catalana de Bellas Arts De Sant Jordi in Barcelona (where she had prior been enrolled as a student), remains just as active an artist as ever. In fact, when I visited her home and studio in Barcelona earlier this past month, I was overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of her own masterpieces -- spilling out from her kitchen pantry, even! From her thoughts on the female-male IMbalance in the field to her first memories with art, she graciously welcomed me into her intimate thoughts, just as her art had done months earlier. Her personal story through struggle and triumph is spectacular and she deserves quite the applause for serving as the role model she is.

Not only did Teresa enter the world in the middle of Spain’s Civil War and live through Franco’s dictatorship, but she also faced difficulty fulfilling her calling in art. Though she had always held a special passion for creating and crafting -- preferring painting to play any time of the day in her early childhood years -- it was not until after she married at 21 and moved from Madrid to Barcelona that she was able to “paint, paint, paint” as she wished. She did not even enroll in the Reial Académia Catalana de Bellas Arts De Sant Jordi until finally feeling justified after having her two children and suffering from postpartum depression, reflecting in person:

“From a young age I wanted to prepare myself in college, but my early motherhood did not allow me to start my studies until my children were old enough to go to school. The school opened up new perspectives on art.”

In art school, her resolve to learn, study, and practice awarded her the School Medal for Drawing, which was undoubtedly the most difficult subject. And in her time as an artist since, her steadfastness has meant shows in prestigious galleries across the world. In 1980 she even became one of the two first Spanish women artists to show her work in the United States, having been invited to participate in the Guggenheim’s New Images from Spain exhibition along with the other female Carmen Calvo and eight other men.

Despite all the challenges thrown upon her, Teresa never lost her determination to speak her truth through art. She even divulged that becoming the artist she is today was really “a necessary condition.” Expanding upon the rather spiritual and mystical characteristics to her unique artistic approach, she left me with a thought that I hope you may all enjoy as well:

“Art elevates its creators and those who are moved by it; it helps us reach human fulfillment.”

Superstar snapshot: Teresa Gancedo

Superstar strength: overcoming challenges

Superstar secret talent: finding space to show and keep her ever-growing collection of art

Superstar noteworthy quote: “art elevates its creators and those who are moved by it; it helps us reach human fulfillment.”

(photo credit: Teresa Gancedo)

#TeresaGancedo #MUSAC

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