Natalia Arbelaez is a Colombian American artist, born and raised in Miami, Florida. She received her B.F.A. from Florida International University and her M.F.A. from The Ohio State University, where she received an Enrichment Fellowship. She completed a yearlong residency at the Clay Art Center; Port Chester, New York as a Barbara Rittenberg Fellow and was awarded the 2016 Inaugural Artaxis Fellowship that funded a residency to the Watershed in Newcastle, Maine. Her work has been exhibited nationally, in museums, galleries, and included in various collections. She has been recognized by the National Council on Education for Ceramic Arts as a 2018 Emerging Artist in the field. Natalia currently lives and works in New York.
I was born in Miami, Florida, but shortly after my birth I immigrated to my mother’s country of Colobia, Medellin. I would return to the states at the age of four and assimilate quickly learning English and forgetting Spanish within a month. Throughout my life, I have always questioned my identity and have felt a sense of loss.
With creating work, I could fill that loss and I have been able to reconnect with my heritage. My work serves as a bridge to research my history and culture while aiming to preserve. I look to the history of Latin American and Amerindian people and work with how these identities are lost through conquest, migration, and time, gained through family, culture, exploration, and passed down through tradition and genetic memory. I use these influences to contribute to a contemporary dialogue while simultaneously continuing the work of my ancestors. There has been so much loss and stigma of these communities that it is important to me that my work celebrates and honors them.
The body plays an essential role in my work as it has a memory to it and memory extends itself to my ideas of the body. In my process of referencing the body, I have forgone the use of an actual and specific body. Because of this, I can use the memory of my own body, the body of my family, and ancestors to extend my memories to places beyond the body. In creating more of an essence of the body and not a likeness I am able to visit such personal and painful narratives that I find hard to confront.