The Artful Collector: Where Are They Now? Spotlight on Artist Rosana Azar

Rosana Azar, an artist immune to commissions who “paints from the inside out”.

Rosana Azar in her studio
Rosana Azar in her studio

It’s hard to believe that in the same year Rosana Azar moved to the U.S. from her native Argentina, 1990, her work was being seen at the World Fantasy Contention – that year being held in Chicago, IL.  Her inclusion in the art show was a last minute decision on my part: I brazenly wrote to the folks running the show and said, “can I please have one more panel?”   Sure enough, they obliged squeezing her in, and – just like that – she sold three paintings her first time out!

There would be five more conventions in her future, 1991-1995, including the 28th Boskone, two SF Worldcons (49th and 50th) and two more World Fantasy Con (Tucson, AZ, 1991 and Baltimore, MD 1995) before Rosana lost interest in the whole convention scene.  And, “just like that” – as suddenly as she had appeared  – she was gone.  From then on it would be direct sales only through me, Worlds of Wonder, followed by solo and group shows both institutional and gallery (here and as far away as Japan).

Amazingly, through all the years, we remained good friends; me cheering her on as she explored her talents, me despairing when she showed not the slightest inclination to explore her “commercial” potential.

Rosana Azar: Cover for Glass Hammer music CD
Rosana Azar: Cover for Glass Hammer music CD, Arion Records, 1993

The Artist Who Opted Out . . .

Rosana got a kick out of seeing her art on the cover of Terra Incognita Magazine, Spring issue, 1997.  Just like she enjoyed winning ribbons for her paintings at the conventions, was flattered by the nomination for a Chesley, 1992 and delighted to be selected to have her work appear in the very first two Spectrum Collection of the Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, 1994 and 1995. All of these honors were appreciated, as were my efforts – on her behalf – to bring her art to the attention of SF/F fans and collectors, through sales and advertising and making prints of her work.  But I had stiff competition, and in the end, the competition won.

As early as 1991 – and despite imperfect English (I could speak a little Spanish, so language was never a barrier) – Rosana was working as an instructor at the Easton Academy of Art.  By 1993 she had moved closer to Silver Spring, established an “atelier” and had become Director and co-owner of “Hands-on Art” a Montgomery County after-school art program . . . which in time involved 27 schools and employed more than half a dozen teachers.

. . . to become an explorer of dreams  –

Rosana Azar "Holding the Light" 2012 in  acrylic, 16" x 12"
Rosana Azar “Holding the Light” 2012 in acrylic, 16″ x 12″

“I see each painting as a doorway, ” she writes in her artist’s statement – a part of her website that she feel is integral to understanding her work, and her approach. “Each painting is an opportunity for you to glimpse your essential self.”

Nevertheless, she was surprised to learn that owners of her work had put her art up on display at sites like  – because she doesn’t follow (or even know about) sites like that!  And she bristles a little when I ask, “Suppose a person came to you and wanted you to take a private commission?”  “Oh, I’m not that kind of artist,” she instantly responds.  Not that she’s averse to seeing her art used commercially . . .again.  Her aversion to commissions is simply based on her resistance to painting anything “to order”.  She’s tried.  She hates it.  She can’t, she won’t, take direction, of any kind.  Believe me, I’ve tried   🙂

“I paint from the inside out,” she says, not the outside in”

by which she means she takes very little input from what others see (or don’t see) in her work.

Rosana Azar "Bubbling Entrance" 2014. Acrylic, 24" x 36"
Rosana Azar “Bubbling Entrance” 2014. Acrylic, 24″ x 36″

She is, for all intents and purposes, impervious to critiques.  At the same time, she loves explaining her work, once it’s done.  For starters, and after a moment’s thought, she describes her style as “surreal – magical realism” – taking her vocabulary from literature, of the South American variety (Garcia Lorcas, etc) although her technique is nothing like other visual artists who rose from that continent.  (Carrington, Remedios Varo, etc)  Her European influences run to the usual suspects, the surrealists: Dali, Magritte, Max Ernst.

Rosana Azar "Spiral to Life"
Rosana Azar “Spiral to Life” 2014 done in acrylic, 30″ x 40″

Rosana doesn’t “prepare” for creating art – either by creating prelims, sketches or roughs, or by giving the matter too much thought ahead of time.  “I just show up in my studio and let it happen”.  Like a writer who takes no notes, prepares no outline, draws no maps, Rosana just lets her imagination loose…and chooses the medium that seems – at that moment – to best suit the concept she is wanting to express.  Sometimes it “works”, sometimes it doesn’t – and she ends up scraping paint off the canvas, or overpainting, until it feels right.

“I may not know what it means, what it has to say, but by the time it’s finished I know.”

Rosana Azar "The Soirit Goes On" 2013 in acrylic, 24" x 24"
Rosana Azar “The Spirit Goes On” 2013 in acrylic, 24″ x 24″

When I was first representing her, she worked entirely in oils, with a technique that produced images that were without surface texture and luminous in color. In time she added acrylics to her repertoire, attracted to the speed with which they could be applied, layered, and then be dry.  She also works in encaustics, and has experimented with collage techniques and even 3D effects. Now she finds herself falling back in love with oil paints.  I am looking forward to what she comes up with!

In recent years, when Rosana hasn’t been painting or teaching, she’s been actively involved in creating murals and installations for local and not-so-local institutions and organizations, and participating in exhibitions, spanning the Washington National Cathedral and Holy Cross Hospital (Washington DC) to the Shanghai Art Fair and galleries in Bucharest, Berlin, Paris.  This summer she is running a two-week “creative adventures” summer day camp…at Strathmore Summer Art Camp, in Bethesda, MD.  She keeps busy.

Rosana Azar "Evolution" 2008 One of her largest paintings, in mixed media on canvas, 36" x 60"
Rosana Azar “Evolution” 2008 One of her largest paintings, in mixed media on canvas, 36″ x 60″

Indeed, there’s only one thing (from where I sit) that is missing from her life.  And that is the opportunity to connect more frequently with all the collectors over past years that have been attracted to her art from seeing it, not at fine art galleries, but at sf/f conventions.  I think she is missing out on a whole ‘nuther’ world, one that I hope this posting will help bring closer to her and her work.

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