Marisol’s childhood was a lavish one. Her life began in Paris, France despite her Venezuelan background. The family’s top-notch lifestyle, funded by the Venezuelan oil industry and real estate, allowed the Escobars the luxury of jet-setting from continent to continent. Marisol’s list of addresses included Venezuela, multiple countries in Europe, and the States. After the death of Josefina Hernandez, Marisol’s mother, in 1941 the remaining 3 members of the Escobar clan settled in Los Angeles.
Marisol dabbled with drawing before realizing she wanted to become a painter. She enrolled in art classes at the Jepson School in Los Angeles when she was only sixteen. While everything seemed in place for Marisol, there was an internal battle brewing. In an interview in 1984 conducted by Avis Berman of the Smithsonian, Marisol revealed her secret, self-inflicted penance. Her dedication to Catholicism caused the brief period of punishments which included walking on her knees until they bled, not speaking for long periods of time, and wearing tightly knotted ropes around her waist in the honor of saints and martyrs.
Encouragement from her father is what pushed Marisol’s career forward. He funded a trip to Paris for his baby girl to study art at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1949. Marisol felt creatively restricted at the school and left a year later. She took her passion to New York City in search of more creative styles. She remained there from 1950-1954 taking classes from decorative painter Yasuo Kuniyoshi at New York’s Art Students League, the ‘dean of Abstract Expressionism,’ Hans Hoffman, and other Abstract Expressionists like Willem de Kooning.
Up to this point in her artistic career, Marisol focused on primarily painting. During her studies in NYC she came in contact with Pre-Columbian artifacts which inspired her to abandon her first love and begin a new affair with sculpture. Her only ‘formal’ training with sculpting was a clay molding class at the Brooklyn Museum Art School. Otherwise, Marisol was self-taught. Her early works were exhibited in the Tanger Gallery with other artists on the the rise. The co-op show caught the eye of art dealer Leo Castelli who set up her first solo show in 1958.
Through the 1960s and 170s, much of Marisol’s work became socially inspired. She wanted to take a break from the commercial Pop Art movement and focus on something more serious. She depicted minorities and the disadvantaged in her work throughout the two decades. One of her most famous works is a re-creation of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. Marisol based her interpretation on the un-edited da Vinci piece which included a bodiless hand gripping a dagger.
Marisol’s innovative work earned her Honorary Doctorates from Moore College of Art in Philadelphia, Rhode Island School of Design, and New York State University. She continues to work out of her home in TriBeCa.
Image Layout: Phaymiss
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