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Abstract artist finds way in local art scene

Above: Artist Monique Santander with one of her pieces. The Solana Beach resident focuses mostly on the abstract, and has shown her work in galleries and museums in New York, Canada, Chile, and Germany. Photo by Lexy Brodt

SOLANA BEACH — When artist Monique Santander made the move from New York City to Solana Beach four years ago, her immense body of work and passion for the arts came with her.

The artist’s abstract and figurative pieces have graced the walls of galleries and museums across New York and beyond, including exhibits in Germany, Canada and Chile.

And although Santander has not found it easy to find a niche in Solana Beach, her work is slowly finding its place in the San Diego art scene.

She most recently showed her work at the Lux Art Institute in Encinitas — but her pieces have also made it to the Del Mar Art Center gallery, the Latin American Art Festival, the Oceanside Art Walk and Solana Beach City Hall.

Her paintings reflects a range of styles, but her true calling is the abstract — “what comes from (her) soul,” she says.

Santander brings a broad palette to the mix, with a focus on bold strokes and bold colors. Her pieces often generate small series with titles like “Del Aire al Aire,” or “Viento al Viento,” the matching color schemes resembling changes of mood or scenery.

And despite finding a new home in the sleepy beach town, Santander said her work has continued to be vibrant, colorful and wild.

“I would think it would become more calm or something,” Santander said. “It’s not, it’s more wild than ever.”

Santander grew up in Santiago, Chile, but moved to New York in her early 20s with the aim to be an actress. As soon as she arrived in the city, she was amazed by the unsubtle energy, the interaction, the culture. And the first thing she did? Drop her bags and head to the Museum of Modern Art.

She ended up attending the Parsons School of Design and obtaining a degree in Fine Arts — though she is predominantly self-taught. She worked in textiles in order to survive in the big city, producing patterns for furniture manufacturers and the fashion industry.

“It all seems glamorous, but it was incredibly hard work.” Santander said.

All the while, she never stopped painting or showing her work. She draws inspiration from across the art world, and particularly admires Chilean artists and visionaries such as artist Roberto Matta and poet Pablo Neruda.

“I have a passion for my art and what I do,” said Santander.

And after 30 years of painting, she is keeping an open mind to the possibilities. Now a member of the Rancho Santa Fe Arts Guild, she hopes to connect with other local artists, help younger generations discover art, and pursue new mediums such as murals.

She said she is still adapting to the sun and sand, and working hard to find a place for her art in a relatively new community.

“I have to let California get the best of me,” she said.

To learn more about Monique Santander and her art, visit: http://moniquesantander.com

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