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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

La Casa Azul: The riveting art of Rosy Peraza Rios

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Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado
Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado
Writer and educator Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado co-founded the TTT school and raised two children after moving to Mérida in 1976. The British Columbia native, author of "Magic Made in Mexico," blogs at Changes In Our Lives.
Photo: Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado

A cobalt blue building with electric pink trim is neatly tucked between a leafy plaza and Santiago’s bustling neighborhood market. 

“La Casa Azul De Rosa” reads a sign tacked onto the front. A woman wearing an embroidered blouse with a flowing skirt appears at the entrance, smiles broadly and beckons me inside.

Crossing the threshold, I feel as though I’m in the garden from  “Alice in Wonderland” and I find myself moving toward flowers like the ones this artist must have seen.

“I’m Rosy Peraza Rios,” the woman says, “and this is my studio.” The color, texture, and nuance of her work are overwhelming. There’s so much to take in, and my eyes start flitting about like two birds looking for a place to land.

Rosy Peraza Rios paints her women as contented and serene. They seem to be saying “be gentle with yourself.” Photo courtesy Mary Elizabeth Walberg

Rosy tells me that as a young girl, she studied painting with her father, a versatile artist, musician, photographer, and bon-vivant. During his daughter’s formative years, he showed her that all living beings, especially artists, are happiest if they follow their natural inclinations. He urged the young Rosy to attend Centro Estatal de Bellas Artes, Mérida’s School of Fine Arts. There she would learn useful skills. She did so and when she’d acquired what she needed, she began pursuing her own path.

The decision to paint full-time is never an easy one, but with her father’s guiding truth, her partner’s loving support, and the goal of setting a stellar example for her daughter, Rosy has thrived.

She sells work at her studio while also participating in group and solo shows. She is also active on social media and benefits from good word of mouth. Most of her canvases are acrylics, and she’s also well-known for her murals. 

She says that Frida Kahlo, Picasso, van Gogh, Monet, and Chagall are among her favorite artists. Her style does have commonalities with these masters, but also with indigenous artisans. Her whimsical touch and use of color give birth to paintings that are purely her own.  

Her tropical flowers, parrots, mot-mot birds, dieffenbachia, ferns, and swaying palms are in high demand. Flirtatious females and loving mamas are two more of the artist’s favorite themes. 

The women Rosy paints seem to be saying “be gentle with yourself.” Rosy’s curvy beach beauties are playful and apparently not obsessed with body image. The maternal faces she portrays look serene. Over the years, the refinement of her talent is clear to see. But whether they are this year’s work or that of a decade ago, they are all unmistakably recognizable as hers. She regrets that she has sold off very few of her early paintings and none of her masterworks. She shrugs her shoulders. “Well, we all need to pay our bills, and my best canvases cover the biggest ones.” Now though, she saves some of her favorites. “I want to leave a legacy for my little girl, for Frida.”

When she speaks of her daughter, her eyes grow soft, and she shows me a few of her 6-year-old’s paintings. They look way beyond the skills of other children her age. Rosy says that she sees her child has talent but at the same time, she wants Frida to be the one who chooses what she will do with her life. She strives to give Frida the same freedom her father gave her.

Yucatán artist Rosy Peraza Rios fills every possible space with color. Photo: Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado

At one point I ask her about the artistic community in Mérida. She says that many creative people have moved to Yucatán in the last few years. She hopes that they’ll all learn from one another yet respect the style of each individual. For artists, imitation is not the highest form of flattery.  

Rosy admits that she fantasizes about fame and having plenty of money. “But that’s just wishful thinking,” she adds.

I ask her to explain her process. “When I start a new piece, I get so absorbed that I feel I’m part of it. As the images reveal themselves, I lose track of time. I gain more and more clarity. I get more and more joyful as my painting progresses.”

Even though she’s whispering, I hear the passion in her voice. She caresses her easel. “Art is everywhere in Yucatán. On walls, stenciled around doorways, suspended from ceilings.” Her hand moves upward and comes to rest over her heart. “I live with my family in this amazing place, and we are doing what we love. I feel blessed — every single day.”

Visit Rosy Peraza’s art studio, in Mérida’s Santiago neighborhood, Calle 72 between 65 and 67, by appointment: 999-256-1923

A version of this story appeared in Issue 3 of our quarterly print magazine, Yucatán at Home / Yucatán Magazine.

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