RUTHERFORD (May 8, 2008) — Her brown hair falls lightly on an exposed shoulder. Her right hand, with gentle fingers extended, has a child-like playfulness.
Her pink, skin-tight shirt covers shapely breasts, while her simple red skirt hangs loose. Her face emits simultaneous feelings of consternation and apathy — content and concern.
She stands like a heavenly creature, waiting to be loved.
Her name is "Elena," and she is 21 inches tall and 18 inches wide.
She is the epitome of femininity, but she is the creation of man — though her architect would emphasize she was created by God.
There's no denying that Jaime Ortiz loves and respects women. For the local Rutherford artist, his devotion to all things female is an outward sign of the relationship he has with his mother, his wife and, it would appear, Mother Nature herself.
Ortiz, who also goes by his mother's maiden name, "Vacalla," finds inspiration in the feminine mystique, in all her seasonal, spiritual and social forms. Be it the romantic charm of a face or the rounded swelling of an expectant mother, Vacalla earns his living by breathing life, with the help of his paints and a blank canvas, into one woman after another.
This ebullient, overflowing devotion pours out in Vacalla's evocative artwork, which will be on display in an exhibit entitled, "Unchartered Realism" from May 10 to May 30 at the Agora Gallery at 530 W. 25th St. in the heart of Chelsea. Several of his paintings will be on display, from "Torera de Hombres," a contemplative piece with a forlorn pregnant woman sitting in front of a raging bull, to "Esperandote," a piece with a simple lady, legs crossed, sitting on her hands waiting for someone special.
Originally from Lima, Peru, Vacalla spends six to eight months of the year at his residence in Rutherford with his wife, and the rest of the time in his native South American country, visiting his two sons.
"I like Rutherford, it's beautiful," Vacalla said during a recent interview. And that approval should come as a ringing endorsement from a painter who deals with beauty on a daily basis.
Vacalla, a distinguished-looking man with a finely trimmed beard and mustache, has been painting for more than 35 years, and he's always been attracted to defining and redefining his interpretation of women.
"Without women, life doesn't exist," Vacalla said in his native tongue of Spanish. "There is no woman that can't inspire a man."
For the deeply religious painter, who is a self-avowed evangelical Christian, the importance of the females he paints stem from his spiritual beliefs.
"God created first the man, but then he created women," said the 57-year-old artist. "Thus, life would be buried without women."
Using oil on canvas, Vacalla said he is able to bring to life his deep respect for females, who he said are the definition of clarity and purity.
The art world appears to have responded in kind to Vacalla's work. He said he sells well in Peru and is starting to pierce the market in the United States. The paintings he will have on display at the Agora Gallery range in price from $3,800 to $5,500.
Such appreciation for women is also a credit to Vacalla's wife of 38 years, who the artist likens to a fountain of inspiration that he drinks from every day.
Besides his wife and religion, Vacalla said he draws inspiration from the many artists who came before him.
And this sentiment can certainly be found in his work. From the jagged faces of his characters, which seems reminiscent of Pablo Picasso, to his wan pallors, indicative of Vincent Van Gogh, Vacalla finds his own work to be just another step on a continuum that was started a long time ago and will continue into the indefinite future.
"Everything has influence," said Vacalla, tracing a large circle on the wooden table in front of him. "The only one that isn't influenced is God — the supreme creator."
When Vacalla talks of his art, he normally draws the conversation back to his faith. Using his hands to imitate a fluttering butterfly, Vacalla drew a parallel between his paintings of women and his belief in something larger than himself.
The distinction was profound in its simplicity and spoke volumes to the type of artist and devotee Vacalla sees himself as.
"Anybody can paint butterflies, and put the colors in — Impressionists, Expressionists," he said. "But can they make the butterfly flutter?"
With a shake of his head, Vacalla answered his own question.
"The only one who can is God," he concluded.
Image Credits: Elena - Oil on Canvas 21" X 18"
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