Raquel Arantes: A Dream Can Not Be Stolen
July 19, 2013 by William K. Wolfrum
A few months back, Brazilian artist Raquel Arantes – who, for full disclosure is my mother-in-law – was preparing for her first exhibition as a sculptor. Despite living in Belo Horizonte, Arantes did a great deal of her work in Sao Paulo under the tutelage of prominent Brazilian artist Cicero D’avila. While in São Paulo collecting work that was in its finishing stages to bring it to Belo Horizonte for the exhibit, Arantes found herself the victim of a crime that would crush many an artist.
As she finished loading the sculptures into her car, a man showed up. With a gun. He pointed the gun at her and stole the car – which contained several key pieces. The thief, car and art were never located.
“I was extremely sad and angry because I felt so helpless at that moment I saw a gun pointed at me, forcing me to leave behind a job that I had devoted so much and with so much love,” said Arantes, 62. “I’ve had to do mental work to overcome the sadness and the anger.”
So with little time to grieve her stolen sculptures, Arantes settled in and recreated the stolen pieces. her work is now ready for the exhibit, which begins on July 25 at Museu Inimá de Paula in belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
“As my husband said, they took what I built but they cannot take away my ability to build it again,” said Arantes. “So it is in that spirit that I worked to overcome what I lost.”
For his part, D’avila – who admitted to not being aware Arantes was 62 – was impressed with her dedication to recreating her work.
“Her determination in supplementing this loss was remarkable,” said D’avila. “She was tightly focused on her goal and was therefore able to overcome this great trauma, in a limited amount of time.”
Art was always a part of Arantes’ life in one way or another, but with her three children grown, she was able to work with a wide array of materials before she fell in love with sculpting.
“I excelled in school crafts and this skill has been growing over the years,” said Arantes, who as a young girl would make rag dolls and other things on a shoestring budget.
“As an adult, I began to work in diverse fabrics, leather, wood, etc.,” said Arantes. Later, as I had more time I worked, I began to paint porcelain and then went to ceramic art where I could create more doing more custom parts.”
But it was simple clay that helped Arantes find a medium tat worked perfectly for her.
“It was a leap for me to find that what I liked most was to create my own forms using clay and then making sculptures,” said Arantes. “Today I see that love making sculptures of different ways and styles.
D’avila – who has been mentoring Arantes and helped her learn specific techniques – is ecstatic over his protege’s continued growth as an artist, as well as her commitment to the craft.
“She has improved a lot,” said D’avila. ” Besides her undeniable talent, she shows a lot of determination, and has made the huge sacrifice of traveling from Belo Horionte to São Paulo for classes. Her work today is the best witness to that.”
Arantes – who also thanked her family, D’avila and friends such as Nestor de Oliveira and Marco Aurélio for their support and help – said there is someone special to her who is the inspiration for her first exhibit.ate
The name of the exhibit is “Albernaz” (her maiden name) and I dedicate this event to my father who would have an immense pride to see that my work, because like me, he was extremely skillful and did amazing things with his hands.”
In the end, what could have been a major roadblock turned into a triumph for Arantes, who feels her work after the robbery has been even better.
“Each piece is unique. I made the new sculptures thinking of what was taken, but each piece has small details that differ from one another making them unique.
“I think every piece I do adds something new and I see that evolving over time,” said Arantes.