Timeless Mesoamerican Desert Landscapes Glow in Anna Ortiz’s Vivid Paintings

Source Colossal  

“El Manojo.” Photos by Max Yawney. All images © Anna Ortiz, courtesy of the artist and Johansson Projects, shared with permission

In the dreamlike landscapes of Anna Ortiz, distant volcanoes erupt and the moon eclipses the sun behind sprawling saguaros, agaves, and prickly pears. Through a highly saturated, nearly monochromatic palette with a limited value range, the Brooklyn-based artist explores how low contrast can “render the time of day ambiguous,” she says. “With any luck, this is an invitation to my viewer to pause and consider what this scene is and when it’s taking place.”

Growing up, Ortiz took many trips to visit family in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she learned painting techniques from her grandfather Alfonso, a professional portrait artist, and her aunt Lolita, a sculptor. Tying her contemporary experience in the U.S. to ancestral and cultural histories in Mexico, Ortiz references the unique, dichotomous cultural experiences of second-generation immigrants. Her work often alludes to ancient Mesoamerican visual culture and mythology while considering its continued influence.

In a body of recent paintings now on view in the group exhibition Enchanted Lands at Johansson Projects, Ortiz profiles flora common in the Mexican desert. She outlines the orbs of golden barrel cacti or spiky fronds of century plants, placing us in a specific climate and tying each vivid composition to a continuum of timeless geological or celestial events. “Weaving together invented spaces with references to actual places,” she adds in a statement, “the paintings take both a familiar tone and a sense of the uncanny.”

Enchanted Lands continues in Oakland through July 20. See more on the artist’s website and Instagram.


“Un Paso”


“Nopal Reclinando”


“Does Agaves”


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