ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A New Mexico folk artist soars to new heights with the 2015 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta poster.
Victoria de Almeida faced criticism in the past for being “too regional” with her artwork, but it’s that connection to home and sense of place that make her a logical choice to represent New Mexico to an international audience.
The 2015 poster reflects the cultures and artistic industries in New Mexico, de Almeida says, along with elements of a very personal nature.
“I’ve got to paint what I connect with in order for the actual message of the painting to be genuine,” she says, explaining the appearance of her grandmother’s house, and the church in which she was baptized and both she and her parents were married.
A friend suggested de Almeida look into submitting work for the Balloon Fiesta, and she started the process. Time passed as de Almeida was busy producing 17 new paintings for Contemporary Hispanic Market and a show in New York. Upon finishing the enormous task of preparing for these shows, she was lying down to take a nap when she got an email from a Balloon Fiesta representative asking for a submission within two weeks. Forsaking a well-deserved rest, she jumped up and started to work.
A painting of the size and detail of the Balloon Fiesta poster would normally take de Almeida a month to complete, but she managed to accomplish it in less than half that time.
“Every painting that I produce, I really try to put my heart and my soul into it and … I approached this the same as I would any other painting,” she says. “I’m all about the person. I’m all about the feeling in the face and the eyes, and the character. So it’s important for me to get those balloons as close to the viewer as possible so they could see the people in the balloons, so they could see their expressions, so they could see the heart – the humaneness – of what I was painting.”
De Almeida, whose grandfather and father were both artists, began painting in 2000 to honor her grandmother after she passed away, and her grandmother’s house and kitchen appear regularly in her work. “That’s why I wanted that little humble house right there in the middle, because that’s the foundation for everything for me,” she says.
De Almeida is pleased to have the recognition for not only her work, but also the very style of it. “It’s hard when you’re a folk artist, being self-taught; you don’t automatically get the instant respect that a fine artist gets … I feel to a certain extent that you kind of have to fight to get that respect,” she says. “I’m appreciative that the Balloon Fiesta has given my folk art that venue.”
Preoccupation with the day-to-day responsibilities of running her small gallery on the Plaza in Santa Fe hasn’t left Almeida with much time to consider the magnitude of the exposure the poster will bring her. “Once I’m experiencing it maybe it’ll hit me, but right now it hasn’t hit me,” she says.