By Tom Larsen
Artist Janda Grove is a North American Expat who lives in Cuenca. She has created an impressive portfolio of work, primarily using oils on canvas, linen or gessoed boards. She is also an accomplished photographer. Her latest initiative, Transferencia: Impressions of Our City, in collaboration with women expats is perhaps her most imaginative and ambitious. It is a project by women for the benefit of women.
The project began in May of 2022. It grew out of an idea, a scribble in the art studio, a combination of rarely — or maybe never before used — materials: oil pastels on vellum. As Janda experimented and worked with the materials, the idea of making rubbings of the architectural designs in the historic center of Cuenca emerged. The vellum is thin, so it is suitable for capturing the texture and line of something underneath. The oil pastels are soft, with rich colors, and can be overlaid, blended, smudged, and “washed out” to softness.
Realizing that there is a potential for creating a large body of work in Cuenca, she decided to recruit other artists and artistic friends. They all agreed that the best motivation would be to raise funds for the Mujeres Con Éxito, a foundation in Cuenca. Mujeres Con Éxito houses, counsels, trains and supports women and children who have been forced to leave abusive home situations.
In the artist’s words: “The project goals are: “Raise money for the foundation — we will Donate All Proceeds. Have fun making Art — it really is fun, and drawing is not required because the designs already exist.”
She continues: “Observe and learn more about our beautiful city — seeing things in a new way — iron work, tile patterns, carved doors, manhole covers, and signs. Going to areas of the city not always visited. We hope to have rubbings from all areas of historic Cuenca.”
Another goal, she says, is to “Create “Community Connections among the women working together and those we meet and connect with through the process of creating the art, working with the Mujeres Con Éxito, and creating an exhibition and finding spaces where large gallery commissions can be waived so that we can give more to the foundation.”
The group is meeting monthly to share the work they have done, learning from each other, sharing techniques, good areas to find designs, and brainstorming about how best to show the work and raise money for Mujeres Con Éxito.
In 2013 an abandoned youth hostel on a dirt road outside of Cuenca underwent a transformation. Under the auspices of Fundación Casa María Amor the building was converted to a shelter for women and children who are forced to flee from domestic violence. It is estimated that six out of ten women in Ecuador have been victims at one time in their life.
Mujeres Con Éxito was formed under the umbrella of the parent organization. This organization provides safe housing, counseling, medical treatment and job training for victimized women. Their facility on Calle Baltazara de Calderón in El Centro operates a laundry service, a café and a catering service, staffed by women who themselves have been victimized. They have also recently acquired the contract to operate a print shop in the Justice Building.
To learn more, click here.
Janda feels that her childhood in Western Michigan allowed her to “develop a sensitivity and appreciation of the ever-changing lights and colors of nature.” This sensitivity and appreciation are evident in her work. She loved art as a child, drawing pictures of her rural surroundings. At the age of fifteen she began working with an art tutor as well as taking as many art classes as she could in school. In later years she studied with the likes of Terry Miura. Don Hatfield, Gretchen Lopez and Suchitra Bhosle. She further indulged her passion and perfected her craft by studying the great masters, in museums and galleries throughout the world.
Janda came to Ecuador with her husband, Dan Foley, in 2012. The attractions of living in a moderate climate and learning to understand a new culture and language were key motivators. Having always wished to live in a Latin society, with a central square, a lifestyle of walking interacting and a lower stress mañana attitude, she and her husband first moved to the small town of Cotacachi. After several years there, and some years going back and forth, they are now happily settled in Cuenca.
Learn more about Janda and the project a: jandagrove.com
The current goal is to complete the project and be ready to show the work in March 2023. March is “International Women’s Month” and Janda and the team want to draw attention to the importance of the work of the foundation. They hope to include several venues for exhibiting the work, perhaps a West End Art Walk beginning at the Mujeres Con Ėxito facility. Stay tuned for more information on dates and locations.
Tom Larsen is an author and former Cuenca expat. His short mystery “El Cuerpo en el Barrill”—”The Body in the Barrell”—set in Manta, will appear in “The Best Mystery Stories of 2022”—Due out September 27 from Mysterious Press.