Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
When a young Tania Pomales informed the grown-ups she wanted to become an artist, they sometimes said she was crazy.
“I said, ‘I know I’m going to be an artist and you can’t change my mind!’ ” the New Jersey-based painter exclaimed in a phone interview.
Today, her oils weave echoes of Frida Kahlo with a dash of surrealism grounded by the Day of the Dead.
Skulls take center stage, trailed in flowers and vines. Moths flutter at the center, while hummingbirds hover. The artist shows her work at Santa Fe’s Keep Contemporary.
Pomales’ family embraced their Puerto Rican heritage and passed on those traditions to their daughter.
“I grew up in a very Hispanic-influenced household,” the artist said. “I learned English and Spanish at the same time. They instilled in me a love for the culture and the language.”
In school, Pomales was always “the art kid.”
When her mother came home from shopping, she always brought her daughter pencils and pens.
Pomales scribbled and drew across old phone book pages from the time she was 3.
“I always had a knowing,” she said of her future profession.
During the pandemic, Pomales devoted all of her time to her painting, producing between 25 and 30 works. She prefers the richness of oils and the consistency of its color.
“I call it magic,” she said.
“I’m inspired by Day of the Dead, but I’m also inspired by the idea of dying and learning to live your life while you’re on this Earth,” Pomales continued. “It’s an exploration of the cyclical nature of life.”
The oil-on-wood panel “I Am Clarity” stemmed from a recent series called “Incantations.” Many of Pomales’ ideas arise during daily 30-minute meditations.
“I just let the ideas come to me,” she said. “All of the titles of the paintings are affirmations.”
With a rare white hummingbird arising from the top of a skull, her oil-and-silver-enamel “Spirit” was part of a show of small paintings at California’s Dark Art Emporium, called “Tiny Terrorists.”
“Everything had to be 10 inches or under,” Pomales explained. “I was trying to tell the story of the ephemeral nature of the human soul. We have to give the soul wings and let it fly.”
“Death’s Warm Embrace” revisits the continuity of life and death in oil on wood panel through a skull sprouting mushrooms.
“It’s the idea that something dies and it becomes a tree; it’s taken into the ground and turns into a tree,” Pomales said.
“This piece was part of an online show at Gristle Gallery in New York called ‘Toadstools’,” Pomales continued. “The theme was anything fungi-related.”
The late author and motivational speaker Wayne Dyer inspired “Give and Receive,” with its hands emerging from a heart’s ventricles.
“What you put into the world, you get out of it,” Pomales said. “If you want kindness, you give out kindness. When you give out that kindness, you always get it back.”
Some observers have called her work “dark and surreal.”
“I use a lot of images of skulls and death. But I try to pair it with life. And it’s surreal because, sometimes, I can’t wrap my head around it.”
When Pomales feels discouraged, she remembers Frida Kahlo.
“She lived a life of physical pain and anguish, and she managed to create work that transcended time and her generation,” she said. “When I feel down, I look to her.”