Dominican Women Artists

Let’s meet some of the super talented women whose work has shaped Dominican art history, theatre, music, and literature.

Bring on the badass artists.

Celeste Woss y Gil

Born in 1890, Celeste Woss y Gil was the first Dominican woman to be a professional artist.

Celeste’s father was the president of the DR for a brief stint, but her early life was spent in exile abroad. She studied art in Paris, Cuba, and New York.

Her style fuses impressionist influences from Europe with a distinctly Caribbean flavour. She is known for her nudes of Dominican women and scenes of bustling marketplaces.

In 1924, she returned to Santo Domingo and put on a solo exhibition of her work. A woman had never done this before in the DR, making it a landmark show for Dominican female art history.

Woss y Gil was passionate about education in the arts. She opened a small art school in Santo Domingo in 1924, and later a painting and drawing academy in 1931. Among her many students was the now-famous painter Gilberto Hernández Ortega.

Josefina Baez

Josefina Baez is a La Romana-born performer, writer, poet and artist who moved to New York when she was 12 years old.

A central theme in her work is the ‘double consciousness’ of the black Dominican-American migrant, who navigates the in-betweenness of their cultural identity and resist absorption into US culture.

Baez’s most famous piece is her one-woman play Dominicanish, in which she shares the experience of fighting to assert herself as a Dominican woman of colour despite constant pressure to assimilate into American culture.

She is founder and director of Ay Ombe Theatre Troupe since 1986, and her work has been translated into Hindi, Bengali, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Swedish.

Baez is a bold Dominican voice in today’s multidisciplinary performance art scene.

Salomé Ureña

Salomé Ureña was a 19th century poet whose beautiful lyric poetry made a lasting impact on the heart of Dominican literature. She is considered to be one of the most outstanding writers in Dominican literary history.

Ureña started writing at fifteen, and at seventeen began to publish her work. She quickly became known across the nation for her touching and heartfelt style. Her work meditates on themes of family love, patriotism, and hopeful aspiration.

An early critic noted the ‘patriotic fiber’ of her poetry to be its greatest quality. Her work evokes the optimism and hope for the future of the Republic’s early days.

As well as being an awesome writer, Salomé dedicated her time to fighting for women’s rights and education. What a hero.

Oh, and she and her husband opened a school for women in 1881, called Instituto de Señoritas.

Salomé’s birthday October 21st was declared national Dia del Poeta in her honour.

Dominican Women Artists

Clara Ledesma

Clara Ledesma was born in Santiago, and became one of the first women to graduate from the National School of Fine Arts in Santo Domingo in 1948.

Clara opened a gallery in 1951, where she displayed her own work and those of fellow artists. Her solo exhibition in 1952 was such a success that she used the proceeds to travel to Europe to broaden her artistic horizons.

She travelled to Barcelona, Madrid, Paris and Lisbon, studying art and gathering important influences. She was deeply influenced by the surrealist, expressionist, and cubist movements and the artists Marc Chagall, Joan Miro, and Paul Klee.

Ledesma is known for her use of bright primary colours and her imaginative lively figures. Her interest in magic and fantasy collided with social realism elements to portray her home country as complicated, beautiful and alive.

She incorporated themes of racial inequality into her paintings, exploring perceptions of blackness with sensitivity.

Ledesma is said to have brought a sense of joy and playfulness to a serious art scene.

Rita Indiana

Santo Domingo-born Rita Indiana is a musician and writer whose innovative work is attracting worldwide attention.

Her band Rita Indiana y Los Misterios experiments with alternative merengue, a sound that fuses traditional Dominican merengue elements with modern alt-rock and electro influences. Rita sings lead vocals and writes their songs. She is known for her lightning-fast beats and engaging storytelling lyrics.

They have regularly played the Hard Rock Cafe and popular alternative venue Casa de Teatro.

Check out ‘El Blu de Ping Pong’ or ‘Jardinera’ to get a feel for their sound.

Indiana has also turned her hand to more literary, non-musical writing. To date, she has written three short story collections and four novels.

Her 2015 novel La mucama de Omicunlé became the first Spanish-language work to be awarded the Grand Prize of the Association of Caribbean Writers in 2017. It was also shortlisted for the prestigious Premio Bienal de Novela Mario Vargas Llosa in 2016.

Rita’s work often dives into social issues, gender, identity and her experience as an androgynous openly-gay Caribbean woman. She is doing important work to pave the way for marginalised, othered voices to be heard.

Rita Indiana is one to watch, for sure.

That concludes our list! Let us know in the comments which Dominican women artists we missed, and who you’d like to see celebrated. 

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