Saturday, January 27, 2018

An Interview with Zulia Gotay, Artist

It’s cloudy and threatening rain as my wife and I drive to Zulia’s house in the Dove Mountain section of Maraña, a neighboring city of Tucson, which locals pronounce marana as in the word for pig but actually it’s the word for bramble or tangle or brier.  We arrive and are taken inside where immediately one knows that something creative is going on. Several of her paintings are on the walls, displays of small figures that she created as a child, decorated cigar boxes and the paintings of other artists that she admires. There is an easy flow to this meeting not only because she’s a friend of my wife’s but despite Zulia's misgivings of being unable to communicate with words she is quite articulate.  It is true that her English has a heavy accent revealing that her first language was Spanish.  She talks rapidly and animatedly, and of course a lot of body language accompanies her talk.

Antonio- How did you start your life as an artist Zulia?

Zulia- When I was a little girl I spent a lot of time alone and I was always making figures.  I used whatever I found, a seed for the head of a person, a wooden match for a leg and I would use papier-mâché to cover everything and paint it.  My mother said that I was disparatada, weird or strange because I wasn’t like other girls.  I was always making something.  I hated dolls and never played with them

Antonio-Were you already thinking of yourself as an artist?

Zulia- No I wanted to be a teacher.  When I was ten I opened a school at my house.  I put a sign outside and a lady would bring her three kids and I would teach them. Finally my mother put a stop to it, she says laughing.

Antonio-And where did you grow up?

Zulia-We lived in Ponce, Puerto Rico.

Antonio-And did you get art instruction in school?

Zulia- Yes and after high school I enrolled at the Universidad del Sagrado Corazon and there I studied under Myrna Baez who was a world famous graphic artist.

Antonio- Is that when you started painting?

Zulia- Yes but I was still going to be a teacher and when I got my BA, I went to live in the United State and my husband’s job kept us moving around and I was constantly taking accreditation courses because each state has different requirements.  Finally we went to live in New Mexico and I taught there for several years.

Antonio- Do you have certain motifs that you consciously put into your paintings? I notice that you have a lot of women in bare feet.

Zulia- I think the body of a woman is more beautiful than a man’s.  A woman’s body has more shape.  And because I am a woman I can use myself as a model . As to the bare feet I think that being in touch with the Earth is very good for you.

Antonio- Can you tell me more about how you paint and what you’re thinking as you begin a painting?

Zulia- I always think of three things; design, composition and color.  I consider myself an abstract painter because I don’t follow very closely the rules about drawing a figure such as that the body should be x times larger than the head.  I think that as long as it is believable that it’s ok. For example Cezanne, who is one of my favorite painters, when painting a still life would tilt the table up so that there was a better view of the objects he was painting.  Or he would stretch a portion of the table.  You see, he was not following the established rules.  But if you haven’t studied art you should not break the rules.

Antonio-What about the colors that you like to use?

Zulia- I like my paintings to be happy.  Paintings should give a viewer a happy feeling. And because I grew up in a tropical place I use colors from my experiences there.

Antonio- What about your use of farms and rural countryside, are those motifs also from your life in Puerto Rico?

Zulia-Yes, it’s what I love, a simple home with a clothesline in front and a mother holding a baby.  I love the Amish and the way they live. I don’t like technology very much as I think it’s not good for us. My husband and I went to the Grand Canyon and all the people are busy taking pictures with their phone instead of looking and smelling the canyon and being in the moment. What good are those pictures?  We have a large file in our brain and if I want to paint the Grand Canyon all I have to do is get that file.  It’s there. That's how i paint, from my imagination and from my brain.

Antonio-You mentioned Cezanne as a favorite, are there others?

Zulia- Modigliani, the old masters, Diego Rivera and Alfredo Roldan, a young painter from Spain that I recently discovered.

She shows me a book with one of Roldan’s painting of a seated woman with what seems to be an arm proportionately bigger than the other.

Zulia- You see that arm looks a little big but it’s ok because it is possible.

Antonio- And do you see yourself moving further into abstract painting?

Zulia-I would like to because the more abstract I paint, the more spontaneous I am. And for me that’s very important because it’s through my paintings that I can communicate best. I’m not so good with numbers or words but I can paint.

Her paintings can be seen at the Chim Maya Art Gallery, Los Angeles, and in Tucson at the Jane Hamilton Fine Art Gallery.

Her web site is


Serg said...

Excellent interview..I see the influence of Cezanne in her work..!

inajewel said...

True artist. Love the colors and composition on her paintings.
Love the pleasant expression on the faces and the smooth way
to project real every day moments from the old days.
They bring me back to my roots. Will be visiting her website.

Unknown said...

Excelente entrevista amo sus pinturas.

Unknown said...

Zulia is as beautiful a person as her paintings. I knew her in Corpus Christi, TX where she helped adults learn ESL, had a show at the South Texas Art Museum.
The vibrancy of her paintings comes from her generous heart.
Marilyn Bremser