Flamenco in Art
Flamenco on its own is art, so it is not wonder it has inspired so much art. From velvet paintings to photographs to acrylic or oil on canvas, artists have been moved to capture a moment in the flamenco dance. The splayed fingers. The turned head. The shoulders thrown back to an almost excruciating angle. The dialogue between dancer, guitarist and singer. The inner dialogue. Flamenco certainly presents a lot of inspiration.
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The matador done up in velvet is a classic; my parents even had a matched pair while I was growing up. (Alas, they are long gone.) Despite the low level of respect given to velvet painting, it must be a difficult medium in which to catch the energy of the bull fight; even more so, the energy in a dance inspired by a bull fight.
A kitschy paintings exists in Amazon auctions at the moment. Vintage 1960s, the painting remains undescribed as the seller admits he buys from estates and is not an expert. However, the painting provides a vignette of a man and a woman dancing, courting perhaps. The woman has the hem of her colorful skirt lifted up enough to show her high heels. The man leans forward, elbows out in classic flamenco posture. There is a swirl of letters in a lower corner, but the name is indecipherable; we will not know who captured this playful moment in a flamenco courtship.
Another velvet painting, less kitsch and more art, sells on another website. The dancers are not in a natural setting as in the other; they are on stage performing. However there is still a thread of a connection between the two, in the way their eyes almost meet, their flamenco elbows almost touch. The man wears the classic matador's costume but with castanets in his hands rather than a red cape. The woman's red flamenco dress curves around her hips and flares out so that only the peeping image of a foot in the tacon position can be seen. The artist has captured snapshots of flamenco elements in that disrespected, difficult medium.
Medium for Flamenco Art
Which medium do you like best for the art of flamenco?
Famous Flamenco Artist
Fabian Perez is an artist from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has lived all over the world – though not in Spain, the homeland of flamenco. Nonetheless, even his earlier works that were not of flamenco dancers captured the darkness and intensity of a woman's body in movement that dictated he would one day have to turn to flamenco. Indeed, his artist statement indicates that he works in the fast-drying acrylic because it allows him to "follow my impulses."
He has several "galleries," or collections, dedicated to flamenco dancers. In all of them the movement, caught on canvas, makes the viewer believe passion can come through the paint. In one, titled "Study for flamenco V," a dancer is caught in a moment of meditation. She has her hands clasped in front of her, catching the compás, the beat. Her ear is cocked towards her hands. Anyone who has watched a lot of flamenco – or, even more so, danced flamenco – knows that moment when the performer is not performing but rather communicating with her art.
"Sevillana" is a study in sensuality. The dancer sits – which is not something you ever do in the cheerful Sevillana dance – with a fan open in front of her. Her legs, muscular from mastery of zapateado, or footwork, create the sharp angles normally found in a flamenca's arms. The customary polka-dotted skirt identifies her as no mere modern dancer, but as a flamenco dancer.
Dancer as Artist
Guatemala-born Rudi Monterroso is an accomplished flamenco dancer. At a recent flamenco show put on by my flamenco teacher, Natalia Perez de Villar, he performed an improvised 30-second dance for the fin de fiesta that made it seem as if he practices every day. He does not. He paints every day. Those results are just as beautiful.
The women in Rudi's paintings are not beautiful so much as devoted. In a painting of his my friend bought a woman stands as a column. She is not one of Perez's elegant, thin women: this flamenca has curves. In fact, she is a column of curves, from knee to hip, all the way up her body to the arm rising above her head in a contorted twist. She looks serene despite the fact her hands and fingers bend at unnatural angles. Indeed, Rudi explained once that he liked to capture that moment when a dancer goes that fraction farther, to an almost impossible, and definitely painful point. He should know: he is a flamenco dancer, as is his wife.
In a print I have of his, a woman stands in sharp profile, her facial features hard. Her back is bent to that painful slant, her arm back at a perfect 90-degree angle. She is haughty. She displays that duende, that flamenco soul that Natalia tells us about. She has that look on her face that says, "I dance for myself. I do not make mistakes because, even when I do, I dare you to tell me about them." It is that self-absorbed confidence that makes some flamenco dancers stand out. A stage presence maybe we all want to incorporate at least to a small degree in our lives.
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Flamenco fascinates us. Its origins are shrouded in mystery, and humans do love a mystery. The dresses, the shoes, the fans, the shawls – these are artistic enough on their own merit. Add them to the mystery and mastery of the dance,and art is born. Some artists have taken their own duende and dared to paint those moments. I'm glad they did.