A global tribe of faces grace an exotic series of painted rugs. The artist, born and raised in southern Spain, speaks seven languages and has no formal training as a painter.
What Florencia does have is a pilot’s license, and worked for British Airways for years before leaving the field after the terror of 9/11. After a few more years of working in the design industry, she walked away from all of it to be an artist.
Living and working in Fort Lauderdale since 2004, she was inspired to paint the big faces after seeing a wall of large portraits at a hotel in Nairobi.
“They made such an impression,” she recalls. “Just this big wall of faces, it stayed with me for years. Now I’m a self-taught mixed media artist, whose mission is to empower and inspire through positive and meaningful artwork. My artistic adventure began in late 2014 when I quit my full-time job in interior design to pursue my real passion: painting. Because I didn’t receive any formal art training, I have developed a style without rules, which gives me great freedom. I combine my love of the classic masters with contemporary design flair to produce mixed media paintings.”
Her style and media have evolved over the years as she continuously explores surfaces and materials. The rug paintings came about after first adding fabric to paintings, then painting on the fabric, then finally painting on rugs – a brilliant move that uses the elaborate design of the rug pattern to frame the face.
“Initially, I set out to paint on canvas and incorporated up-cycled and repurposed materials that would otherwise be disposed of, such as discontinued fabric and paper samples, to create backgrounds and “dress” my subjects,” she says. “Three years into my adventure, I discovered I could paint directly on upholstery fabric and area rugs and have fallen in love with the effect I’m able to achieve in this new medium. The patterns become intertwined with the image and add yet another dimension to it. I find these layers are a metaphor for us to look deeper than what meets the eye.
My latest series is entitled “Guardians of Sacred Space” and is composed of my largest pieces yet, ranging between 6’x4’ and 10’x8’, painted on area rugs. They are powerful portraits that command attention and infuse a sense of protection and calm to the space they are in.”
She gets the rugs online, from friends, or in resale stores. The trick is that there can be no overpainting if she makes a mistake, so she starts with light outlines and builds up layers. The rug pattern becomes a tattoo or third eye or inspiration for the color scheme. They are tribal, ethnic, nomads.
“We are all on the same plane,” she says. “I believe portraying a variety of ethnicities is the best way to promote inclusion. It is important to me that everyone feels represented in my artwork as a mirror of society. My artwork is very much a reflection of my life and, therefore, I am in some way, in every one of my paintings. Painting is my therapy, and, so, as I heal myself, I also hope that others can recognize themselves in my work and that it may ease their pain as well.”
At the heart of her artwork is the desire to “portray strong and confident, soul-aligned men and women. I want to celebrate who we are and everything that makes us unique, perfectly imperfect beings, by bringing out our strengths and our beauty; as a reminder of who we really are and to say “I see you and honor you.”
She has a home studio but has joined the co-op group at the New River Museum in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. On the third floor are six artist studios open to the public, the bottom two floors house the museum with photos, artifacts, dioramas, and recreated period rooms.
Her studio is set up as a gallery, with works both large and small, prints, and vintage Spanish dolls that remind her of her heritage. She has exhibited in the mansions of Art Ft. Lauderdale and has upcoming shows at various art festivals.
She says she is constantly striving to give form to her own feelings and visions, as well as others’. She takes commissions and feels that at the end of the day, there is nothing more satisfying than a happy collector whose expectations are not only met, but surpassed.
Connect with the artists on Facebook and Instagram page @ArtbyFlorencia. Online at www.artbyflorencia.com
Florencia Clement de Grandprey makes haunting art on intricate rugs