About the Author: Kristen Hickman serves as a Public Affairs Specialist for ART in EMBASSIES.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton are visiting Lisbon, Portugal, where they are attending the NATO Summit, the NATO-Russia Council Summit, a Summit of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troop-contributing nations and other major economic development donors, and the U.S.-European Union Summit.
Portugal is largely credited for spearheading the 'Age of Discovery' during the 15th century. Vast fleets of sailing ships set out to find new markets for trade. Goods from Africa, East Asia, and South America eventually ended up in the markets of Europe, influencing artistic traditions as well as commerce. The cross-cultural exchange of artistic expression and technique continues today, as manifested in the visit of American painter Elizabeth DaCosta Ahern to attend the opening of the ART in EMBASSIES exhibition at the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Lisbon where her paintings are on view.
At the invitation of Ambassador Allan Katz and Nancy Cohn, the Portuguese-American artist also conducted a Master class at the Colegio das Artes of the Universidade de Coimbra. Established in 1290, it is one of the oldest universities in Europe. DaCosta Ahern's presentation, entitled "Distillations: An American Experience," focused on her work within the broader context of 21st century American Art.
Here's how she described her experience: "The question and answer period that followed the lecture was one of the highlights of my experience as a visiting artist. The student audience, numbering about 65, asked questions that were perceptive, probing, and intelligent. We talked about process, theory, subject matter, materials, art history, and career choices. Questions continued after the program ended while I packed my materials and outside the lecture hall as I waited for the Embassy driver. Cultural exchange at its best!"
DaCosta Ahern's work features prominently in the current exhibition in Lisbon. Half a dozen abstract paintings, such as this one, entitled “O Mar Angola,” evoke movement and energy.
"I am fascinated by the way time, contemplation and imagination can alter an experience," DaCosta Ahern says. "These paintings are my attempt to reflect that altered memory of color, light, space, time and how one layer of each influences the other. In the process of painting these images, I layer materials such as graphite, pastels, crayons, acrylic, wax, and oil paint on paper or canvas."
In 2006, Elizabeth DaCosta Ahern participated in cultural exchange activities in Luanda as an ART in EMBASSIES American Artist Abroad. Her experience there inspired a number of works in the current exhibition. She received her education at Boston University, Massachusetts; the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Santa Fe Art Institute at Santa Fe College, New Mexico, where she studied with Helen Frankenthaler.