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Ruby Aranguiz Valencia: a world of joy and light.

Even before we open Isabel Allende's Cuentos de Eva Luna, we are intrigued by the book. The alluring young woman on the cover catches our eye and holds our attention. Reclining sensuously and bathed in light, she is, like so many of Allende's characters, a combination of innocence and provocativeness. Her gaze is frank, steadfast, and even, perhaps, a bit brazen. Her skirt is hiked up to her thighs. Her figure is full and feminine. Still, there is something ingenuous about her. Her lips look as though they were about to turn up into a smile at any moment. Dressed in orange and surrounded by oranges and yellows, she conveys genuine warmth and geniality, as well as potential passion.

The portrait is "La Macarena," an oil painting by the Chilean artist Ruby Aranguiz Valencia. Allende chose paintings by Aranguiz for four of her books: La casa de los espiritus, De amor y de sombra, Eva Luna, and Cuentos de Eva Luna. Aranguiz's work also appeared on the cover of a Spanish textbook written by Maria-Paz Haro, Maria del Carmen Sigler, and Christine H. Bennet.

Known for her highly innovative use of light, Aranguiz has been called a cubist and an impressionist-inspired painter, although her work really defies classification. Art critics have pointed out the influence of Matisse, Cezanne, Gaugin, and Degas in her use of color and form, but there is an exuberance to her paintings that is all her own. Her works include portraits, nudes, still lifes, and landscapes. In many paintings she combines the realistic depiction of objects in warm, vivid colors and pale, dreamy backgrounds. The contrast creates an impression of effusive light. In addition to oils, she works with pastels and serigraphy.

Aranguiz's strong female figures and her mixture of concrete objects and magical, otherwordly effects make her an ideal choice to illustrate Allende's fiction. Like Allende's, her work combines reality and fantasy; it achieves considerable psychological insight, but still maintains a playful dimension. And like Allende's, it reflects European artistic currents, yet maintains a distinctly Latin American feel.

Although Aranguiz lived in Spain and did considerable work there, the Chilean landscape was never far from her mind. Even her European scenes possess a drama and energy, achieved largely through her use of layers of color, that seem Latin American. Her luminous paintings of Chilean coastal villages are a celebration of the beauty of her native country, which political chaos has failed to dim in her mind. Aranguiz has also been inspired by Mexican murals and folk art.

Ruby Aranguiz Valencia received her degree in Fine Arts from the University of Chile in Santiago, and later studied at the Art Students League of New York, The Rhode Island School of Design, and the San Fernando School of Fine Arts in Madrid. She won a scholarship from the Rockefeller Foundation in New York, where she also taught. In Spain, where she lived for seven years, she earned Queen Sofia's sponsorship of a national exhibit of her painting. She has been living in the United States since 1980. She has exhibited in Chile, Spain, Mexico, and several North American cities, including New York and Washington, D.C.

Barbara Mujica is a novelist, shortstory writer, and essayist, as well as an associate professor at Georgetown University, where she teaches Hispanic literature and directs El Retablo, a Spanish-language theater group.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Mujica, Barbara
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:Sep 1, 1990
Words:560
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