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Love For Life Shines Through In Artist's Work… Sharing Her Heritage On Colorful Canvases; A Paoli Artist Paints The Spirit Of Early Caribbean Indians

Love For Life Shines Through In Artist's Work


September 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

The Florida Times-Union

Specks of pigment fell onto the white paper and got wet from the sprays from the water bottle.

As the pigments were absorbed, they took on dark tones of red and brown, transforming the naked white surface into a rainbow of colors.

Enrique "Quique" Mora stood over his latest creation. With just his finger, he had turned the pigments into a woman whose long, flowing hair blew in the wind.

Mora was in his studio at his house in Neptune Beach, demonstrating the technique that he said took him six years to perfect.

"If you throw too much, it won't work," he said in Spanish. "I believe in the vitality of those first stains."

Mora likes to draw the female figure. It's a recurring theme in his mixed-media paintings, which have a definite cubist and fauvist influence and a Caribbean touch.

Mora is the featured artist at Stellers Gallery at Ponte Vedra, which will be part of Saturday's second Beaches Gallery Tour, modeled after the Downtown Art Walk.

Ten of Mora's paperworks featuring these Latin American pigments will be on display through the end of the month, along with some other originals on canvas. The paperworks differ from Mora's earlier works because of the earthier palette, said Hillary Tuttle, director of Stellers.

Mora said he wants his love for life to come through when people look at his work.

"I want people to feel good and inspired," he said.

A brief walk through his house reveals life all over the place. One woman greets the viewer in a semi-dance, flowers flying behind her, a thick dab of red paint making up her sensuous lips. Mora has amassed a large collection of his works over the past 15 years, with paintings on almost every wall.

Mora even has unfinished works out. He looks at them to see what they need before he feels they're finished.

"They might need more texture or color," he said. "May be they don't have a real motivation or they lack some symbolism."

But he knows when the work is done. He gestured dramatically and paused. "It's difficult to explain," he said. "It's a feeling I get."

Much of his work is guided by feelings. Mora, who is originally from Puerto Rico, said his ultimate desire to be an artist came from a feeling at a very pivotal moment of his life.

It happened one day when he was in his second year of college in San Juan. A gang of robbers attacked him and a friend, hitting them with a baseball bat and inflicting serious injuries.

As a result, he had 100 fractures in his shattered jaw, which was immobilized for two months.

But when books and movies did nothing to cure his increasing boredom, he turned to drawing and discovered cut-outs from a Matisse book.

"I started to like color and form," he said, which later led to working in his father's gallery.

Looking back, recovering allowed him the time to discover his own interest in art, which had always been sort of submerged even as he was exposed to artists as a child.

"God sent those guys to give it to me," he said. "That made a new path for me. Every day I thank God for that."

Now, Mora is a mid-career artist who sells internationally. His paintings average $3,000 to $5,000, said Tuttle. A large original can run $12,000, she said.

Mora has recently ventured into sculpture and says he would like to do more large-scale paintings.

And as he continues to create, he keeps certain things in mind, like one lesson his artist father left him with.

"Be the best of the best or the worst of the worst, but never in between," Mora said.

Sharing Her Heritage On Colorful Canvases; A Paoli Artist Paints The Spirit Of Early Caribbean Indians.

By Mary Anne Janco

September 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Philadelphia Inquirer. All rights reserved.

Maria de los Angeles Morales often paints the Taino Indians, the "gentle people" who inhabited the Greater Antilles when Columbus arrived in 1492.

Her paintings - vivid portrayals of Taino ceremonies and interpretations of their legends - are her way of educating people about the original Caribbean Indians who were enslaved and mistreated by their Spanish conquerors, their culture lost through intermarriage, she said.

A native of Puerto Rico who now lives in Paoli, Morales has traveled extensively to research Indians of North and South America and the Caribbean and to share her thoughts on canvas.

On Tuesday, as a member of the Taino Indian Nation of the Antilles, she will join in the Native Nations Procession that marks the grand opening of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington.

Morales began searching for her Indian roots after Chief Roy Crazy Horse of the Powhatan-Renape Nation saw her work at her solo show in Puerto Rico and invited her to the American Indian Arts Festival at his reservation in South Jersey.

For that juried show, she did a painting of an erupting volcano with an Indian emerging, symbolizing the birth of Puerto Rico.

Ribbons from that festival, where she regularly shows her work, hang in her home studio, a room crowded with images of the people she's met in her travels and the legends and stories that she's heard.

"I don't paint portraits," she said. "It's what's inside the person that comes out in the painting."

Often, she paints women with their children. "They're strong women," she said. "They're strong in a gentle way." Morales noted that the women took care of the family and home and worked in the fields. "They may not be warriors, but they play a very important role."

One of her popular images is of women and children, dressed in colorful garb, at a marketplace in Ecuador. One of her most recent works in graphite is the face of Mother Earth, her hair made of leaves, surrounded by nature.

Cam Biggie, chair of the art show at the Daylesford Abbey, said that Nurturing is one of her favorite paintings by Morales.

"It's a native woman - Madonna-like - holding a small child. The look the mother has for the child... there seems to be love shining that you feel."

"It's obvious she has a deep interest in the people she paints," Biggie said. "She's a very warm, loving person who's generous with her time. Even the colors she uses are warm," she said.

Kim Hunter, a staff member and community member at the Powhatan-Renape Nation reservation, agreed that the artist "has a warmth about her" that "shows in her work. She's a gentle soul, calm, jolly and gentle in her approach."

"She does a lot of work showing the strength of women," Hunter said, adding that one of her favorites is I Am Eagle, which meshes the images of a woman and an eagle.

Some of Morales' later work has become more mystical and spiritual. A recently completed graphite work represents the emergence of the Taino people from a cave with the face of the creator guiding them.

Morales also designed the faceted glass windows for St. Norbert's Church, her parish in Paoli.

"I was excited to try something different," she said. The huge windows represent the covenants God made with the people from Adam and Eve to New Jerusalem, she said.

Recently Morales was asked to participate in the Art of Caring, an auction to benefit the expansion of the Hickman, a retirement community in West Chester. Ten local artists have painted Adirondack chairs that are on display throughout Chester County and will be auctioned off Oct. 8.

"I couldn't paint an Indian and have someone sit on it," Morales said. "That would be disrespectful."

But she wanted to represent some of her heritage, so she painted a coral reef with the bright fish and marine life that someone would see snorkeling in the islands, she said.

Most of Morales' work includes varied media - gouache, oil, watercolor, pastel and pencil.

"I will use any medium that I know I can to get the feel I want," Morales said as she reworked a piece called Ancestors. Using pastel and oil pastels on blackboard, she created a mystical image.

Morales, who now teaches art at Immaculata University, earned a degree in Spanish literature there. She earlier studied art at Penn Hall Junior College. But it was her artist mother and a painter in Puerto Rico who got her started in art. The painter, Ramon Lopez-Morello, "taught me to use my imagination," she said. Her first oil was a two-legged mermaid.

Morales said that often as she is researching, perhaps reading a history book, "all of a sudden, it sparks something. I can see it in my mind developing."

"Painting," she said, "is something I have to do. That urge comes. Ideas come. It just gets inside of you. You have to do it."

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