Inspiration: Carmen Herrera
Vince Lo

October in Vancouver is generally the time of year when the city catches the cold and the entire bus coughs in unison. Naturally, I became sick and found myself stuck in bed watching The 100 Years Show—a documentary uncovering an abstract painter that has been overlooked for countless years until now: Carmen Herrera.

I took Art History in my undergrad and I did my best to know the names of artists and their work but ultimately, its a different world to immerse myself into. Ellsworth Kelly, Lucio Fontana and Bruno Munari we’re names I only recently discovered and whose work I’ve come to love.

Watching The 100 Years Show certainly brought me into Herrera’s world and the most incredible part was that she had always been present during the time when all the other artists were gaining recognition. While her peers were having their work exhibited and becoming renowned artists, Herrera simply kept working; waiting for the day that her work would receive the same attention.

As I watched Carmen—now 101 years old—direct her assistant on where to apply the paint on the canvas, I couldn’t help but smile at my computer screen. To live to 101 years old is quite a feat in itself, but to continue painting and creating work at that age is really something else.

Throughout the years, Herrera’s work remains minimal yet striking, restrained and simple. And perhaps in the most simplest of messages, Herrera’s life taught me about the uncompromising dedication to creating and working towards a vision every single day.

A week earlier, I came across a quote from Danish-American journalist Jacob Riis who provided a fitting description of Herrera’s journey with this analogy:

“Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

It had been a tiring week leading up to that afternoon as I sat before the screen. Saturdays have usually become my rest day to reflect, ponder and recharge for the upcoming week. Carmen’s story was simply the inspiration I needed for facing the challenges ahead for our studio.

In one segment, Herrera encouraged the audience with her motto of “waiting for the bus” and promising that “one day the bus will come”.

So on Monday morning, I did exactly that.

Photo credit:
Lisson Gallery
The New York Times