Maria Battista is a fascinating combination of restlessness and serenity, soulfulness and earthiness. Those contradictions may be the secret to her artistic talent.
Battista, who arrived in Colorado Springs in 1982, taught Spanish for 30 years, mostly in School District 20. She made a conscious decision to not teach art.
“For one thing, I think some of what teaching is about is this constant need to motivate other people. And I love art, so it’s depressing to me to have to motivate someone else who is not motivated to do it.”
Having summers off gave her time to take classes, including one month learning stone-carving in Italy. There, she reveled in the museums and the world-famous Carrara marble quarries, which furnished the raw materials for most of Michelangelo’s sculptures.
“He’s inspired me ever since I was very young, like a teenager. I think because his compositions, when you really look at them, are so abstract, even though he’s using a very strong representation of the human body. He twists and contorts and uses the body in a way that’s remarkably modern, I think, and way ahead of other Renaissance artists.”
Like Michelangelo’s two-dimensional pieces, her drawings of the human body look sculptural yet spiritual.
“When I get an idea, it makes me feel like I’ve been granted this little brief moment of looking into the web of life and shining a little light on one part of it. And other times, I just think I feel kind of lost and ignorant,” she said, laughing. “I don’t mean that in the derogatory sense, I mean it in the deepest sense of humility.”
It’s fitting that Battista cites a Renaissance artist as her greatest inspiration, because she embodies the spirit of that age with her quest to learn and connect. She plays classical guitar, speaks several languages, explores philosophy and sheds light on the treatment of women in Third World countries. But above all, she is an artist.
“Primarily, art makes me feel loved and alive. It makes me feel like it’s the way I participate in the mystery. I’m a childhood Catholic, so I like that word ‘mystery.’ It seems to be the only way that I feel included in life, that I feel something is moving through me, giving me something, allowing me to create things.”
Recently, Battista has taken bigger steps to be more “publicly accessible.” As of July 1, she can be found in Studio B of the Second Floor Studios, above the Michael Garman Museum at 2418 W. Colorado Ave. (Enter from the Colbrunn Court/Bancroft Park side of the building.)
“I found I needed a dedicated space in which to do the two-dimensional work, as this requires an environment uncontaminated by marble and metal dust,” she said. “I know I can learn a great deal from the camaraderie and community that is developing here.”
Battista will be showing mainly drawings and paintings at this studio, but also will display her jewelry during Old Colorado City's First Friday ArtWalks. And now, she’s combining media by mounting her small figurative drawings on copper.
“I solder my own hand-made framing hardware on the back, put a heat patina on the copper, which is very beautiful in itself, then I affix an original drawing to the copper sheet. This way, the buyer gets a piece with both metal work and draftsmanship combined.”
Battista doesn’t have set hours for her studio, but she will make appointments to meet potential buyers; contact her through her site.