An Artist’s Emotional Journey

By Shelby Rowe Moyer

The illustrations by Madison-based Luisa Fernanda Garcia-Gomez are a hurricane of shapes and colors.

What the drawings depict aren’t always clear, but that’s not really important. As an abstract artist, it’s Garcia-Gomez’s desire to take people on the mental and emotional journey that urged her to create each intricate series.

All of her art comes from the feelings that are thwacking around inside her body — her way of releasing the mental and emotional tension.

Because her art is so playful and bright, most wouldn’t guess that much of her work is inspired by her hometown of Mompox, Colombia. Garcia-Gomez grew up during the height of the Colombian cartel drug wars, and describes an idyllic picture of painterly Spanish architecture and vibrant people — contrasted with intense violence and regular bombings.

“You never knew if you were going to make it home that day, but life didn’t stop.

Sometimes I was I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I remember getting groceries and the store explodes, or I’m in a restaurant, and it explodes,” she says, noting that she always made it out OK. “I don’t want to be morbid; I just want to set a tone. At the same time, it was lovely. I had amazing friends, and when you live in that tension, you appreciate life more than anything.”

One of her previous exhibitions, entitled “1980,” incorporates colorful beach ball-esque installations suspended from the ceiling — her interpretation of the bombings that took place in a country she loves like a “toxic boyfriend.”

With her current series, “Gallitos,” (which translates to “little rooster”), she’s exploring the conflicting patchwork of cultures that are living inside of her — Latin, European and American.

In Colombia, the culture is free and expressive. Having lived in France and now the U.S., Garcia-Gomez became accustomed to a more structured lifestyle. She moved to Madison in 2014, so it’s been over a decade since she’s lived in Colombia.

The first image in the “Gallitos” series depicts a cockfight — a visual summary of her feelings about Colombia. She’s been working on the series for about a year now, and the images are getting kinder and more tender. This is her way of coming to terms with herself and what it means to be a Latina woman.

“Gallitos” will eventually be on display at Overture Center, once the arts hub can return to its regular programming — which is important to Garcia-Gomez.

“Part of my artistic path is very community-based — I need to share,” she says. “We live in such a lonely time. I think my role as a human, as an artist, is to try and create something better or create a scenario where you can hear and listen and think about something other than yourself.”

When you’re entrenched in experiential art with other people, she says, you’re more likely to strike up a conversation with them and develop more empathy for those around you. In this sense, the isolation of the pandemic has been especially difficult for her.

“Something weird I’ve been feeling lately is how we can live without bridges and buildings,” she says. “But we can’t live without other humans.”

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