Elaine Soto – bio

Elaine Soto is an Artist and Clinical Psychologist who works at New Grounds Printmaking Workshop and in her own Private Practice of Psychology in Albuquerque. Originally from New York she was an Artist in Residence at the Puerto Rican Workshop for fifteen years and at El Museo del Barrio for one year. Her recent solo exhibitions were the Divine Feminine at the University of New Mexico’s (UNM) Valencia Campus and Recent Work at the UNM Faculty Club in Albuquerque both in 2012. In 2011 she co-curated two shows with Regina Araujo Corritore for Vistas Latinas, “Que Feo” at 105 Gallery and “Quinto Sol/Sexto Sol: Creation & Destruction” at the South Broadway Cultural Center both in Albuquerque, NM.

Artist Statement

I am an artist and a clinical psychologist. I was born and raised in New York City. As a child I experienced the racism perpetrated against all Puerto Ricans. There was rarely anything positive written about us in the media. In fact the media routinely highlighted crimes committed by Puerto Ricans on the front page of the newspapers. In my grammar school geography class there was a scant paragraph about sugar and tobacco production on the island. I grew up hungry for anything positive about my culture.

I attended Catholic School in the South Bronx. When I was 10 years old we had to select a confirmation name or the name of a saint we wanted to emulate. When I told my mother she suggested the name Monserrate. I didn’t think it was a cool name but when she told me the story of that Madonna, I decided to take that name. She was a Black Madonna famous for miracles in Puerto Rico. I chose that name because it gave me something positive to emulate from my culture.

In 1978 my loft apartment on the Lower East Side was robbed and the medal of the Black Madonna my mother gave me at confirmation was stolen. Later in 1992 while taking a relief sculpture class, I decided to make a Black Madonna. My Italian teacher informed me that they had a Black Madonna in Italy also famous for miracles. My Madonna was exhibited by Vistas Latinas at the Harwood Art Center of Stoney Brook University in Long Island. At the exhibit a white woman stared long and hard at my sculpture and whispered to her friend. “She is Black. Why is she black?” It reminded me of the painful racism I experienced growing up and it piqued my curiosity. I started researching the identity of the Black Madonna.

Later I travelled to Puerto Rico, Spain, Italy, France and Mexico. I learned there are over 450 Black Madonnas around the world. Their origins are connected to Isis, Earth Mothers, and Mary Magdalene. I painted the Black Madonnas that I found in these diverse locations. I have presented on and exhibited my Black Madonnas nationally. The linocut prints in the current exhibit are based on my paintings.

The gravure prints are from photos taken in Oaxaca in 2014.