I was born in Barcelona and raised in Madrid, Spain, and studied Fine Arts at the Complutense University of Madrid. Nearly 18 years ago, I moved to the golden state and settled in San Francisco. I remember constantly noticing the differences between the two countries – everything seemed so big in the U.S. I especially recall being moved by the magnificence and splendor of the trees of this area, so rich and elegant, and how virtually everything in the U.S. was built with wood, as opposed to Spain, where all the buildings were made with brick.
I was so impressed, I started using wood as my main material, drawing and painting trees on the wood. I loved using it as part of my work, not only as the base, but also as a "background", letting the wood grain show through, using different shades of wood stains, combined with acrylic and oil, and integrating pyrography (drawing by burning with a heated metallic point).
I suppose that being born and raised in one country, and as a young adult moving to another, makes you compare and contrast what you know and what you've seen, with other ways of doing and seeing life. Yet at the same time, other aspects of life are very much the same everywhere. I feel inspired by this relationship between harmony and contrast and I like to express it in my work – showing how contrasting elements highlight the opposing qualities in one another and bring appreciation of their specific attributes. I love simple, bold contrasts of positive and negative space, light and shadow, color, texture, patterns and contrasting materials like wood and metal leaf.
I still love playing with wood textures and incorporate them in my work but, with the birth of my now seven- and ten-year-old daughters, and the current political climate, my artistic focus and inspiration has evolved, bringing attention to women and girls’ issues – how women have been silenced by patriarchal societies in most cultures, if not all. My daughters bring me constant inspiration and enthusiasm to keep doing my work and advocate for them, for us.
It is my belief that we can rise above our anger and remove the barriers to our success – by talking, sharing, communicating our thoughts to each other, redefining our own expectations, and never assuming that we must play fixed, female roles. I am often inspired by the stories, ideas and courage of the women I meet. Every day, I am reminded how women are agents of change. Through my work, I try to send a message of empowerment – graphically demonstrating how our once-silenced voices and unheard ideas, when brought together, can promote strength.
This message I pass on to my daughters as well, encouraging them to be who they truly are and dream to be, discouraging them from internalizing and assuming gender stereotypical roles. I invite them to question well-meaning people when they speak to them as "beautiful princesses" instead of smart girls with interests – and to be aware, listen and share in order to help themselves and all women as a whole.
Samanta Tello, 2019.