I remember feeling a deep excitement while watching the election results on TV. On the day of voting,
my mother and I had trekked uphill to a neighborhood far from our own in order to reach the polling
place. I remember being in a courtyard with folding furniture and a lot of rain. A voting booth was
set up in what may have been a school. When the voting was over, it felt like standing in a deluge. We
walked into a small shop where they sold ceramic statuettes of Catholic saints. We bought a couple
and carried them home in a small black plastic bag. The statues were supposed to watch over us and
keep us safe, but to which we would also have to pray….
1998 was the year when a sense of certainty and tradition ended. What we had for ourselves was
washed away by a big surge of government change, a big unknown. There was extensive use of color
and language for the new power. It was the year when I had this aspiration in my young mind for a
good life ahead of us but it soon turned into something else….
—Isabel Alicia Baptista
2019 Holds first solo exhibition at Thomas Park gallery, New York.
1998: A Biography in Exile displays six paintings: Words and images are cut and intertwined, some
recognizable, some not, on fabric stiffened by paint and glue. Words as image entered painting as
early as 1911. When Picasso and Braque started fragmenting the picture plane, words emerged. With
the disruption and then abstraction of the illusion in painting, words crept in as image. It happened
almost simultaneously. As soon as words appear in painting or in any other media, they immediately
lose or alter or resume their meaning. As if they entered a realm of persistent tension where they kept
being asked what they mean, what they are. As if they were in exile.
Like the words used by Cubists, Isabel’s word are fragmented. Often they are put together
like wrong puzzles or shown in mirrored images that hardly make sense. The pieces of words are
taken from French, Spanish or English. She was born and grew up in Venezuela until 8 years old.
Spanish was her first language, but then had to speak English since moving to the United States.
While staying in France, she thought French was the language she could hear her voice in.
She would open up a French copy of Mallarme’s Poesies and show how she picks up words from
there to use in her painting, how she tosses the words around as if they were objects. Her notes are
often fragmented. So are her images. It is as if she decided the act of fragmenting was the grammar
of her own language. Cubists’ fragmented surface was a formal decision, a pathway from illusion to
abstraction; Isabel’s act of fragmentation is a way to make sense of her life. To deliver a perpetual
sense of being in exile.
So she “writes” with images and words in fragmentation. In a way, that is what people do
these days with social media. She writes about herself and her life. She contemplates on 1998, the
year when she first felt a deep sense of optimism. In Coucher , where the number 98 is drawn in bold
black lines, she writes “sleep(coucher)” on top of what looks like a black sky over the Andes. Her
first ever aspiration in life overlaps with a blackout(“apagon”). This is where her life begins. Then
she recollects some names, bodies spread on the ground, curtains(“rideaux”), and a room full of
noise(“bruit”). Away from home, this is the land she resides in, where words are all fragmented,
where she keeps telling stories, and wanting to make sense.
2017 Participates in a group show, representative representative at Rod Barton gallery, London.
The show includes the works of Isabel Alicia Baptista, Ryan Cullen, Tom Krol and Malte Zenses.
2015-2014 Graduates from the Cooper Union. Upon graduation, receives The Jacques and
Natasha Gelman Foundation Award with the prize of $15,000. Uses the prize money to buy camera
equipment and a ticket to Paris. Lives in Paris in November, December 2014 and January 2015
(During which she made trips to London and Frankfurt).
2010 Moves to NYC and begins her studies at the Cooper Union.
2008 Family moves to New Orleans, LA since her parents couldn’t find jobs in FL during the
recession. A company in New Orleans offers her father a job and to pay for the relocation. In her
senior year in high school, she attends NOCCA(New Orleans Center for Creative Arts), where she
majored in visual arts.
2000 Family moves to Polk County, FL from Caracas, Venezuela. It was her parents' decision
to move to a small town with a Catholic school so that the children can learn English. The family
had a regular and steady life there.
1999 Family travels to Disney World in FL for a vacation. She recollects, “I didn’t know my
parents took us there with a thought of moving here. They must already have felt that the
government was out of control when it began to take lands and companies, anything that was
private. The government was coming up with excuses to seize all money and power. My parents
felt a sense of responsibility to leave the country to be in a position where they could help those
who were unable to leave. They began preparing paperwork, saving money, all documents that
were needed for legal process, sold the house and the cars.”
1998 Hugo Chavez is elected as President. According to Isabel’s mother, “The country was in a
bad shape due to corruption even though a lot of dollars were coming in for petroleum. There was
a lack of medicine, a lot of unrest, student protests and people living on very few means. Chavez
came on the scene with his military background whose popularity grew FAST. There were
promises of housing, food, education and money. People elected Chavez, and the majority were
happy because “unruly capitalism” was going to be turned into a compassionate system that would
do more justice for the poor, and share the petroleum wealth in a better way. They would call it
“socialism of the 21st century”. If he would have called it a communist system he would have
never been elected. When he began to create hatred between people who had and the people that
didn’t have, and began to control all of the powers, and use government funding/wealth without
any control, they decided to leave.”
1993 President Perez is impeached.
1992 March Isabel Alicia Baptista is born in Caracas, Venezuela, to parents who are
architects. She was born in between the two coups that were attempted by Hugo Chavez in Feb and
Nov to get PresidentCarlos Andres Perez out of power.