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Eliana SaariFaculty Ohio Dominican UniversityArt and Design
Eliana Calle Saari is a Colombian-born artist whose award-winning work has been widely exhibited nationally and internationally. She earned a degree in Fashion Design from her hometown of Medellin before moving to the United States to continue her studies where she earned BA degrees in Art and Spanish from Otterbein University, followed by an MFA in Printmaking from The Ohio State University.
Her printmaking practice draws from traditional Colombian storytelling with its blend of evocative description and Magic Realism. Calle Saari creates series of monumental woodcuts printed on lush paper, diaphanous silk, and patterned cotton, as well as meticulous constructed artist’s books that contain prints which intimately engage the viewer and evoke universal folkloric stories.
Calle Saari is a professional teaching artist and currently a faculty member in the Art Department at Ohio Dominican University. Her work has been recognized through numerous solo exhibitions, awards, and residencies. In 2008, Calle Saari was awarded an Ohio Arts Council Artist-in-Residence Exchange in Dresden, Germany and, in both 2016, 2017, 2022 her printmaking won awards in the Ohio State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition.
My installations and prints are inspired from being born and raised in Colombia, a country known for its culturally rich heritage and where the slippage between “the actual”, “the ideal”, and “the magical” are simple everyday occurrences, my work is directly indebted to my heritage. Going through life experiencing and perceiving a world that blurs the lines between realistic and fantastical, my life today is made of all the things that were (and are) my absolute belief in the spiritual forces of the universe.
Regardless of the form of my work, the intent is always to engulf the viewer in an experience. Whether is the intimacy of an Artist book or an all-around installation. With my life-size print installation, I try to re-create that feeling of walking by everyday people, unaware of their exact purpose in life. The life size images of people walking or just standing, are suspended in air to allow them to move subtly and be everchanging with the play of light and shadow on their surfaces. This creates a more immersive environment that allows the viewer to participate and to “lose” themselves in the crowd and at the same time, experience moments of beauty exemplified not only by the imagery itself, but by the silk and its movement. The gossamer-like fabric that mutes the images through the visual layering of space and the action of the viewer walking among the figures evokes the ethereal quality of walking among angels.
Wherever I travel, I’m constantly taking photographs of as many moments as possible. Families together, strangers passing by, nonspecific inanimate objects, and a plethora of other potentially mundane examples. These photographs are by no means of any good quality, they are often blurred or have unusual compositions. Throughout the hundreds of blurred photos I take, usually one photo, or perhaps a small piece of it, will begin the inspiration for an entire body of work. Combining drawings and photographs, I create my preliminary images, then I transfer them to a block of wood where I take my time drawing. After my drawing is complete the carving and printing process becomes simple effortless, almost meditative. A recurring motif that appears in my work are monarch butterflies. To me, monarch butterflies represent the inexplicable magic within the universe, the idea of reincarnation, and the symbolic representation of Colombia, not only because Colombia holds the world’s largest variety of butterfly species; but rather for their ability to mesh reality and fantasy. Implementing them in my work creates a sense of strangeness yet maintains a subtle familiarity. I create portraits through combining and juxtaposing dissimilar subject matters like human figures and forest elements.I place the subjects in a whimsical place full of magic, where butterflies surround you while playing with your hair and let their wings kiss your skin producing a smile and leaving you with an internal warmth every time you feel their touch.
Even though I left Colombia many years ago, it will always be my home and what has shaped me into the person I am today. My work is an optimistic memoir that demonstrates a bridge to my past, culture, and brings childhood memories and stories to life. Although immensely personal, my work is meant to create a sublime and slightly absurd feeling; with the ultimate intent to cover every viewer’s eye in rose-colored glasses, shielding them from the ever-shadowing cloud of darkness life may bring.