|"Girasoles" (Sunflowers) by Carmen Soto|
My mother was the first artist I ever met. She was born in Spain but moved to Cuba with my dad to raise her two young sons, and then I was born. She was a stay-at-home mom but would paint professional photographs with oils when that technique was popular. I would watch, for hours, while she colored in the sepia tones with different oil paints. I grew up smelling turpentine and solvents! And she would have me nearby drawing in coloring books and creating on my own. She was such a happy person and all the while music would be playing in the background! Classical, rock and roll, boleros... Other times she would sew and have me sit on her lap as she sewed in the old Singer sewing machine. I loved "helping" her! When she wasn't painting, or sewing, she would be writing for the CMQ, which was the first Cuban t.v. station. I remember her talking fondly about Lilia Lazo (Popa) who was a good friend.
And then we came to Miami. And like most Cuban immigrants, in the beginning, she worked at a job she didn't like and once she got home, she would start painting and not stop until all hours of the night. That's were she found her solace. She was a self-taught artist who enjoyed giving her art work away as gifts for her friends. So her family was left with just a handful of pieces as cherished mementos. She died much too young, in her mid-fifties. Today would've been her birthday.
My mother, without doubt, is the artist that has influenced me the most and inspires me to this day. "Girasoles" was her last painting. She made this for me as she was recuperating from surgery, just prior to her death because she knew how much I loved sunflowers and daisys, and hoped it would make me happy. It does, Mami, and you did.
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