Bossio: Strange women

Colombian artist Rossina Bossio
Colombian artist Rossina Bossio.

The white brick walls of Rossina Bossio’s workshop are covered with canvasses of women. Some reclining, others poised to step out of the frame. You want to know who they are, and why they chose to wear what they are wearing. Rossina Bossio’s main subjects are exclusively women. Contemporary, confident, they are “icons” of our times. A pop culture theme emerges. Her brush strokes are as plaster thick, as they can be finite and precise.

We understand these women exist in a context, in an environment; but the artist intentionally displaces them from a clutter of objects, such as stacked classroom tables or black computer keyboards. Bossio calls her latest series of paintings “Extraño” and a double word play in Spanish meaning either “stranger” or “missing.” Bossio’s subjects, first captured on her iPhone before being painted are clearly strangers, and seem to be “missing” their habitat, or even, someone.

Artist Rossina Bossio paints women in intimate settings.
Artist Rossina Bossio paints women in intimate settings.

Rossina Bossio is a multidisciplinary artist, who has been tackling themes of gender identity ever since she took up painting as a profession after graduating with a Visual Arts degree from the Pontifica Javeriana University, and earning a prestigious scholarship to continue her studies at the L’École des Beaux-Arts in Rennes (France).

Born in Bogotá (1986) and raised in a protestant Italo-Colombian home, the young painter became interested in the general theme of how women, of all ages, embraced their sexuality, their femininity, within the context of a predominately Catholic society. “It was an attempt to redefine my own identity and rewrite my own story,” states Bossio introducing a project, entitled ‘The Holy Beauty Project’ which propelled her name, within a very short timeframe, to highest levels of Colombia’s art circuit.

Even though Rossina participated in several art collectives in France, such as Art en Capital at the Grand Palais (2011) and Des histoires in Nantes (2010), she took with her husband, writer Nicolás Díaz Durana, a decision to return to Colombia in 2012, and quickly began to organize the works which would become the visual building blocks for the ambitious, and much talked about “Holy Beauty.”

“It’s partly autobiographical. ‘Holy Beauty’ was a way for me to exorcise the issues I had with religion,” states Rossina. “I have always been fascinated with religious art, but religious images didn’t generate any reaction within me. I didn’t believe in those images. I was more intrigued by the reaction they caused on people.”

Rossina’s paintings for the exhibition were accompanied by a video and still photographs completing a visual cycle and “experience.” By masterfully employing different mediums – from paint to digital – the spectator was taken on a journey across centuries of artistic tradition, with a stark message: the way women have been represented in iconographic religious art is not as time sensitive as we are led to believe. In today’s commercially-driven world, advertising often depicts women in sublime situations, expressing gestures of sexual desire, with the “ecstasy” of heightened consumerism. In Rossina’s large canvas ‘Carnivore’ a woman gazes transfixed towards the heavens, wearing a medieval suit of armor, and listening to music with headphones. A kind of Joan of Arc electrified by iTunes.

'Carnivore' from Holy Beauty Project.
‘Carnivore’ from Holy Beauty Project.

The ‘Holy Beauty Project’ was unveiled in the museum area of the Santa Clara Church in Bogotá in 2012. As part of an initiative to promote contemporary art within a colonial setting, “Holy Beauty” was an artistic match. “I knew from the moment I stepped into the museum, that I wanted to showcase my work there,” remarks Rossina on the duality of her work within these conservative, sacred surroundings.

Critical acclaim followed on the heels of the exhibition and Rossina Bossio’s artistic performance using light, video and a specially composed score, all played to the senses of the viewer. “I didn’t want my art to be a simple visual placebo,” states this artist. “I am not interested in complacent beauty. I wanted my art to reflect the complexity of the human condition. I want to reach out to the angel and demon we all have inside of us.”

Rossina is one of many young contemporary Colombian artists who use paint as their main medium, rather than shun an age old tradition for on site installations. “I am radical when it comes to my work. It either works or it doesn’t.”

Represented by the LGM Gallery in Bogotá, Bossio was invited to show a selection of her paintings at the exhibition ‘Perspectives of Latin American Art 1950-2012’ in Beijing, China. Hosted by the Art Museum of the Imperial City, the artist was one of a select group chosen to meet Chinese artists and discuss the Latin American art scene.

Although ‘Holy Beauty’ is on many levels a criticism of the influence religion exerts on women and their interpretation of sexuality, the response of audiences has been open-minded and accepting. “People asked questions, rather than feel offended,” states Rossina. “Especially young people who appreciate the impact of a singular body of work.” Rossina has exorcised her religious “demons” to embark on the theme of women within fragmented domestic landscapes. Although her gallery will host an exhibition of “Extraños,” she is self-disciplined to finish the series so it can be shown to international audiences.

Although this visual storyteller has an important future ahead, she is grounded in her technique and understanding of the profession. “A work of art is not only a delight on the senses; it also has to deal with intellect and emotions. These qualities are very important for me.” And when it comes to capturing tormented beauty, the mystery and power that lies within every woman, it’s hard to find a more versatile and evocative artist than Rossina Bossio.

See more of the artist’s work:


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