Celebrating the Culture of Literacy, Ideas, and Imagination
On Thursday, July 16th, we unveiled the official 20th Anniversary Texas Book Festival poster, which features the work of artist Fatima Ronquillo.
Ronquillo is a self-taught painter whose classical imagery is inspired by literature, theatre, and opera, evoking a world of serenity and charm. Her intimate works play with the style of European old masters coupled with a magical realism rooted in folk and colonial Latin American traditions. The Festival poster image, a boy with a goldfinch perched on his hand, suggests an inner world where art history meets with nostalgia and imagined storybook characters.
Ronquillo’s story is also a testament to the importance of public libraries and the life-changing inspiration books provide. Born in San Fernando, Philippines in 1976, Ronquillo immigrated to the United States with her family in 1987, settling in San Antonio, Texas.
Books taught Ronquillo how to paint, says Rachel Stephens of the Austin-based Wally Workman Gallery, which has represented Ronquillo for many years. “Moving to San Antonio from the Philippines, Fatima discovered for the first time the joys of a public library. For a small, foreign, friendless girl, that San Antonio library was a refuge,” Stephens says.
“She devoured the work of Gabriel García Márquez, Octavio Paz, and many others. The endless supply of books opened up imaginary places and characters into which she escaped. She began to copy the pages of art history, teaching herself to draw and then to paint, mimicking the sensibility of Titian, Goya, and Renoir,” Stephens says.
Ronquillo began exhibiting her work at the age of 16 as part of a young artists mural painting workshop sponsored by the San Antonio Museum of Art. After graduating high school, Ronquillo joined the U.S. Air Force and continued to paint and exhibit. After leaving the military, she made Austin, Texas her home. Her full-time painting career was launched through the Wally Workman Gallery. Soon after, Ronquillo was named one of the “21 under 31” emerging artists by Southwest Art Magazine in 2007.
The narrative quality of Ronquillo’s work made it a perfect choice to represent the Texas Book Festival this year. As Stephens remarks:
“As you can see in the festival poster image, her informed visual language creates characters that are layered with a past as well as a future. The eye contact activates the viewer as a participant. Her symbolism intrigues the imagination. It is no wonder that the literary community is drawn to her work. What time period is it set in? Are the flowers being offered or received? Is the finch a friend or a possession? And what army could the red armband signify? As with literature, there are no wrong answers. There are only stories, stories wanting to be told, stories wanting to be read.”
Ronquillo currently resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.