Awilda Sterling

Caribbean born and bred, Awilda Sterling is a contemporary visual artist and 2010 USA Artist Fellow. Born September 14, 1947, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sterling holds an MFA in Studio Arts/New Forms from Pratt Institute in 1979; BFA in Painting from the School of Visual Arts, San Juan, 1971; and a BA in Humanities, Minor in Visual Arts, French Contemporary Literature and Roman Languages at the University of Puerto Rico, 1967. She started her artist/teaching career as a painter in 1972 and continues until the present, from academic to cultural institutions, galleries, museums, and open spaces. As Adjunct Professor and Student Mentor in the School of Visual Arts and Design in San Juan, her integrations between painting and related disciplines have made her a unique artist of her gender and generation in her native Puerto Rico as well as abroad. She has been granted significant awards for her artistic trajectory and artistic individuality. Her most recent painting/drawing installation en-cierro (2015-2019) strongly feeds on “acts of appropriation’’ from Franz Kline’s gestural marks on canvas.

Project Description

Movement is the basis for my artistic articulations, being it a mark on a surface, a gesture in painting or a sequence in movement. At this moment, I feel an urge to paint again, looking forward to a full career renovation. I have been working on en-cierro (enclosure), a full-length, multimedia performance/installation from 2015 to 2019 where the tonal scale is the predominant element in painting, drawing, video and animated drawings. en-cierro refers to the social, political, emotional and adverse economic conditions, filling and trapped in body and soul. The bodily actions sprang after reading the first chapter of Michel Foucault’s text Surveiller et Punir: Naissance de la Prison (1975), in itself, a recollection of historical documents that morbidly describe public torture, commonly performed openly in 17th Century Europe as a warning against social misconduct and upheaval. 

The concept was conceived to push myself out of creative stagnation; a structure that could readapt to multiple architectural spaces, video projections on the walls and in my body as a moving element on the three-dimensional space. The visual aspects, soundtrack, and environmental sound were inspired by Franz Kline’s Black Paintings, John Coltrane’s sax improvisations and John Cage’s deconstruction modes of performing sound, silence, chance, and music. Working this concept repeatedly has brought me back to what I call “raw painting,” revisiting my first encounter with Kline’s Painting 52 at eighteen years old as an undergraduate art student. The impact compelled me to copy his gestural boldness. Therefore, in a practical sense, en-cierro brought me back to Franz Kline anew. 

When this call for artists arrived I had already been invited to present my artwork in two important art events here in Puerto Rico this coming summer season: One, at La Liga de estudiantes de arte de San Juan 50th Anniversary celebration which will take place at the Museo de las Américas this July, and the second, a solo show at La Liga de Estudiantes de Arte Gallery, which will be on view for a full month; mid July through mid August. I had already envisioned some of the sample images in this proposal as large scale bi-dimensional pieces; although I don’t have the budget to finance the expenses it takes to put them on. If I am honored with this grant I will be able, not only to buy the best quality materials to enhance the presence of my new work, but it will also help me fill some important gaps in my budget. On the personal side of events, I embrace both invitations as venues to continue the dialogue between art, craft and technology, and the artist’s quality of life in Puerto Rico.