Virginia Jaramillo (b. 1939, El Paso, Texas) studied at Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, from 1958–61. Jaramillo lives and works in New York.
Central to a career spanning six decades is Jaramillo’s drive to express materially our sensory perceptions of space and time. The frameworks of reference explored in Jaramillo’s work are inspired by a diverse range of experiences and influences, spanning history and crossing cultures. Whether creating bold abstract paintings, sculptural mixed media compositions or meticulously formed linen fiber works, Jaramillo has forged a unique voice, experimenting with material and process to pursue her ongoing explorations of human perceptions of reality.
In 1979, Jaramillo embarked on works made from natural linen fibers and earth pigments, signalling a creative breakthrough for the artist, who until now had been working primarily with paint on canvas. She developed processes of handmade paper making at the newly founded Dieu Donné Paper Mill (NY, USA), alongside a community of Soho-based artists including Barbara Schwartz and Bart Wasserman. Jaramillo began creating works that crossed the boundaries between painting and drawing, exploring watermarking as a means of drawing, and structuring layers of pulp stained with coloured earth pigments. Multiple ‘veils’ of barely-pigmented linen pulp would be poured onto the clean mold; the geometric lines and forms were taped, to create a raised surface that displaced the poured pulp into separate areas.
In the Visual Theorems series, geometric structuring relates to both the compositions and the title of the works. In mathematics, a ‘visual theorem’ is a graphical form which the eye organizes into a coherent identifiable whole, which contributes to our understanding of mathematical or real-world situations. The Visual Theorems works therefore powerfully express Jaramillo’s central preoccupation with how we, as individuals or societies, conceive structures in order to organize our sensed experiences of the world around us.
In the Foundations series of the 1980s, Jaramillo uses a similar technique to create larger works from linen fibers and hand ground earth pigments. Jaramillo drew from her ongoing investigations into ancient civilizations, namely their architecture and belief systems, to create complex compositions of subtle colour shifts.
These linen fiber works were widely shown in a number of important publications and exhibitions, including the legendary feminist journal Heresies (1979) and A.I.R. Gallery (1984), and are held in multiple museum collections including the Museo Tamayo, Mexico; Spencer Museum of Art, KS, USA; and Dallas Museum of Art, TX, USA. Jaramillo continued to use a similar handmade fiber technique for works that are in collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, USA and Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, MO, USA.