Transitions from a Nun to Emerging Visual Artist, Anabel Ruiz

Jan 12, 2017 11:22PM

ACS Magazine January/February 2017 Issue at     

ACS Magazine January/February 2017 Issue at  Published by Renée LaVerné Rose (Publisher & Editor-in-Chief). 

Anabel Ruiz was born in Havana, Cuba and she is the youngest of three sisters. Anabel left Cuba with her parents when she was nine years old, and lived in Madrid, Spain for a period of five years. During this time, her dad secured a scholarship for Anabel, to a private Catholic school.  It was here that Anabel began to acquire a deeper appreciation for art, and it was here that her formation as a self-taught artist commenced. At the age of fourteen years old, her and her family moved to Miami, where they reunited with many of their relatives who had migrated to the city (like so many other Cuban exiles), to make a new life.

Once she finished high school, Anabel went on to study Business Administration, although she knew, deep down inside, that this wasn’t the path to her true happiness. Inside of her there was this tremendous turmoil and search for meaning and purpose. A year before Anabel graduated, she met a religious congregation, and the hurricane inside of Anabel stirred up all the more. Anabel ended up graduating from Florida Int’l. University and entering religious life right after. To the surprise of many, and even herself, Anabel became a nun.

 Anabel entered two different congregations in different parts of the world, first in Miami, followed by service in Fatima, Portugal.  During her eight years of religious service, Anabel studied a lot. She is very grateful that she was able to develop the creativity and artistic talent that has always been an integral part of who she is. Anabel cannot think of a time when she was not considered “the artist” in her family, in school, or at work. “Sister Anabel”, was no exception to this rule. And during these years the gift of art was not neglected but rather expanded. In 2011, after much soul searching, Anabel decided to leave religious life and return to Miami. Her journey continues today, with a self-acceptance that she once lacked, and she is at peace with the decisions that she has made.

Spanish: Nací en La Habana, Cuba, en 1974, y soy la menor de tres hermanas. Junto a ellas y mis padres salimos de Cuba cuando contaba con nueve años de edad, y vivimos en Madrid, España por un total de cinco años. Durante este tiempo, mi padre obtuvo una beca para mi en un colegio católico. Fue en esta época que comencé a adquirir una mayor apreciación por el arte, y fue aquí que mi formación como artista plástica comenzó. A los catorce años nos fuimos a vivir a Miami, donde nos reunimos con muchos de nuestros familiares que habían emigrado a esta ciudad como tantos otros exiliados cubanos, con el propósito de forjar una nueva vida.

Una vez terminada la escuela secundaria, pasé a estudiar Administración de Empresas, aunque muy dentro de mi sabia que este no era el camino hacia mi felicidad personal. Dentro de mi existía una gran inquietud y una búsqueda de propósito y significado. Un año antes de graduarme, conocí una congregación religiosa y ese huracán que había dentro de mi ser se revolucionó aun mas. Terminé graduándome de la universidad para inmediatamente ingresar a la vida religiosa. Para sorpresa de muchos, incluyéndome a mi misma, me hice monja.

Entré en dos congregaciones religiosas en dos diferentes partes del mundo, primero en Miami, EEUU, y después en Fátima, Portugal. Durante un total de ocho años de servicio religioso, estudié mucho, I estoy muy agradecida de haber podido desarrollar mi creatividad y talento artístico, los cuales siempre han sido una parte integral de quien soy. No puedo recordar ningún momento en mi vida en el que no haya sido considerada “la artista” de la familia, de mi escuela, o dentro de mi lugar de empleo. “La Hermana Anabel” no fue una excepción a esta regla. Durante estos años, el don artístico no fue anulado, sino mas bien expandido. Y en el año 2011, después de una ardua búsqueda interior, decidí abandonar la vida religiosa y regresar a Miami. Hoy mi camino continúa, con una aceptación personal de la que carecía anteriormente, y en paz con las decisiones que he tomado.

Anabel opens up about her experience as a nun to say, “Being a nun is something that marks you for life, in so many ways, within your own self and because of people’s perceptions and ideas. The stigma is there. If you are no longer a nun, you are a “former nun”, but the point of the matter is that the nun remains. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for me to see someone react to something I do with a couple of questions such as: “Weren’t you a nun?; I thought nuns were not supposed to ________________ ? (Fill in the blank).”

Anabel explains, “There’s a lot of preconceived notions one has to deal with. Recently, a friend of mine who just left religious life, shared some personal situations and asked me if that type of thing had already stopped in my life, and how I dealt with it. I answered her that there’s really no way around it, and I shared a quote from Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones): Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor and it can never be used to hurt you.”

“What does it mean for me personally to wear that like an armor? It means that, with everything that I am and everything that I have learned, I live in the present. The past is gone and the future is uncertain. No one has a right to put me (or anyone) in a box or a closet, and I am certain of this truth, before the mirror and in all of my relationships and dealings with others. It is with this armor that I transitioned “back to the world”, and emerge as an artist today.”

“I also feel that I emerge as an artist with many lessons learned and experience under my belt. Not everything was a bed of roses, but religious life taught me an abundance of things. They are things unseen and deeply rooted.”

“For example, (to name a few) it taught me that I am in this world not to be a victim, but to help the victimized. It also taught me how to transform the most difficult circumstances through prayer. About an attitude of praise, thanksgiving and forgiveness being the path to healing and life. It also taught me that, if I am honest in examining my conscience, I will find in myself the flaws I criticize in others.”  

“Transitioning and emerging are both beautiful words. People have a right to experience these things: to grow, to evolve, to mature. None of us are perfect, but we are all beings in constant transformation. I want my art to be a reflection of this, to continue to grow with me, to continue to be a part of me, and to be able to share it.”

 Anabel Ruiz is a member of the Art NXT Level community (

Read the entire story of this amazing emerging visual artist, Anabel Ruiz presented by Sergio Gomez on page 170 in the ACS Magazine January/February 2017 Issue at  Published by Renée LaVerné Rose (Publisher & Editor-in-Chief).

Anabel working in her studio.