In Honduras where contemporary and realistic traditional art is the normal, Helga Sierra (’12) has surprised the market with her abstract creations.
“There’s not a lot of art education here, which has been one of the main hurdles with doing abstract art,” Helga said. “Here people are used to seeing portraits or landscapes, and if you do that then you sell, but that’s not what I’m wanting to communicate.”
Helga received significant recognition when she was invited to participate in the 2019 “Towards the Future” art show held in the Museo Para La Identidad Nacional in Tegucigalpa, celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Instituto Hondureño de Cultura Interamericana. The IHCI is supported by the U.S. Embassy in Honduras and is a major promoter of arts in Honduras.
Helga grew up in Honduras and began painting when she was only 8 years old. The training she received at a young age was primarily traditional. Her first encounter with abstract art was in a class taught by ACU art and design professor Dan McGregor (’97).
“It was something that came very natural to me, because I have a strong color theory basis,” she said. “And it just felt right. Every time I did abstract, it was some sort of expression of my emotions.”
She graduated from ACU with a degree in business administration and a minor in art, then obtained an MBA from Lipscomb University. After graduation, she continued to work in creative services and graphic design, but her artistic dreams had yet to become a priority.
A year after graduation, she travelled to Lisbon, Portugal, to assist in a church planting opportunity. During the three months she was there, she had free time to explore the city, visiting museums and taking photographs. Away from family and friends, she regards this trip as a crucial turning point in her artistic career; it was then that she decided to begin painting a collection of pieces.
“It was on that Lisbon trip where I recognized this is what I was made to do, in a very different way than I had before,” she said.
With a clear calling to jumpstart her artistic career, she decided she would take her collection and return to Honduras in late 2016. In April 2017, she opened her first art show displaying the abstract pieces she had brought back from Portugal.
“Abstract for me kind of releases the tension of having to be perfect,” she said. “I’m a perfectionist by nature, and I want to be in control and everything I do to be perfect, but the reality is my life is not like that at all. That’s what abstract art is for me a lot of the time, expressing what’s out of my control. It’s the only time I don’t feel like it needs to be perfect. Obviously, I’m finding harmony within the piece and I’m using all the tools that I have, but in the actual painting process I forget all of the other stuff.”
Helga owns an art studio in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. She also works part time at a marketing and design consulting job. During a two-year period, her artwork has been displayed at all major cultural shows in Honduras. Now one of her goals it to have an international presence, she said.
She recently was invited to display her work in a show in New York City, New York. In September, she plans to attend a show in Panama City, Panama, where she will be the only abstract artist featured. In the future, she plans to continue seeking new international opportunities and has considered pursuing a residency or graduate school. She is exploring new art forms, such as installation work and photography. And at some point, she hopes to be able to begin a nonprofit organization with her business background.