Elizabeth Baez is a Puerto Rican artist born in Brooklyn, New York, whose art was safely hidden from the public until her family inspired her to share her art with the world. Not only did she grow up in New York, but also in the vibrant island of Puerto Rico. Growing up in New York and Puerto Rico, Baez brings us paintings that show her pride of her Puerto Rican heritage. Baez paints in vibrant colors depicting the life in Puerto Rico, capturing still life moments or the captivating landscapes and traditions found within the island. Elizabeth Baez shows us the importance of preserving a cultural heritage through art.
When did your journey as an artist begin?
My first remembered experience was in kindergarten. I was painting and I changed my mind from what I was drawing to paint purple mountains with blue skies. A little girl told the teacher that I was wasting paint and the teacher came over and asked what happened. I told her I changed my mind. She said she loved my purple mountains and how “there are no mistakes in art.” I loved that statement, and never forgot it. It is amazing what an impact a teacher, a person, can make in your life.
As a Latina artist, did you encounter any problems on getting your art exposed?
Yes, same struggle; expenses are a constant major obstacle. The best venues and exhibit opportunities that are available to show my work are very costly and out of my budget range. It has been a miracle to get a far as I have with so little resources. Being patient helps. I can thankfully say God has provided me with many opportunities. I have worked very hard to be ready for those opportunities, since 2000. I am blessed to be able to produce my own photography, design and prep work for printing, advertising, and web. I do everything I can myself. With that said, along with the great support of my family.
Your art touches a lot on cultural pride. Why is cultural pride important? Have you always been proud to be Puerto Rican?
Yes, I am very proud to be Puerto Rican. My family has always talked about our culture and prepared our foods and played Latin music during family events and the holidays. It was not until I was an adult that I realized how meaningful it is to connect, to belong; and how fulfilling it is to share our culture.
I noticed that your art exposes us to the Puerto Rican culture, for those of us who aren’t Puerto Rican, we can learn through your art. Can you tell us what a “bomba” is?
The Bomba is a dance where the dancer and drummer communicate through the drum beat and rhythm. Each performer takes turns to challenge each other with a drum beat and dance. Back in the day of slavery, they would sing the news to the audience of other slaves and disguise the stories from their masters with song and dance. Today, the dance is a cultural expression danced with joy; and a pure joy to watch.
Cultural preservation is another theme is your work. Why should culture be preserved?
Culture brings pride, as an individual you feel a connection to group; as a community, you share a common story and experience. In our world of technology we can become quite isolated. I am always amazed when a crowd of strangers gather and everyone sings together in harmony. Sharing an experience with a group is welcoming and comforting. Knowing your cultural story encourages you to carry yourself with dignity. Hopefully, this knowledge can help us embrace the cultural similarities in other people and be open to our differences.
What advice would you give a young artist on “finding their voice”?
I understand the self-doubt; as a creative person, there is always doubt. Know it is part of the creative process. Keepworking on it until you are happy with it. “There are no mistakes in art” sometimes that so called “mistake” turns out to be the best part of the work. Make works that you are proud to sign your name, those other works will haunt you. Not all works are going to be the best, let those go. Not every song is a hit. It is OK to start over. Be patient, be kind to yourself, we are always learning. Tell everyone that you want to be an artist, singer, dancer, writer…so if an opportunity comes up, they will mention your name. The most important thing is to trust in your own voice. In the end, this is what matters most. Be proud of your unique gift, it is uniquely yours, grow it and share it.