A mosaic of life’s journeys makes its way into the oeuvre of Nashville artist Yanira Vissepó, which combines elements of block printing, fiber arts and, more recently, cyanotype. Abstract and enigmatic, Vissepó’s creations allude to fragments of her personal path—including a pivotal move from Puerto Rico to Tennessee as a child.
Early in her practice, the artist gravitated toward block printing on paper and fabric for pragmatic reasons: “I was trying to create from home, and those materials were accessible to me,” she notes. But exploring the medium soon engendered a fascination with pattern making, exhuming childhood memories of seeing Puerto Rico’s ancient Taíno stone petroglyphs. Carving symbols into the rock face, the island’s indigenous forebears “were communicating with a higher power in nature,” the artist explains. In dialogue with this tradition, Vissepó developed a symbology that still anchors her work to this day. From delicate saplings to orbs reminiscent of river stones, these motifs evoke the island’s familiar waterways, wildlife, mountains and sunlight.
Today at her Elephant Gallery studio, Vissepó carves those same shapes into wood or hard linoleum, pressing directly onto paper to create minimalist silhouettes. Alternately, she’ll layer stamped impressions to render abstract landscapes. For her cloth tapestries, she swaps water-based paints for more permanent oil-based inks, brightening her black-linen backdrops using bold gradient hues for high-contrast intensity. These jewel-like emblems are frequently cut out, layered atop cotton or raw Belgian linen, then embroidered by hand onto the final composition for additional dimension.
In 2021, the artist embraced her proverbial blue period with cyanotype tapestries exploring her family legacy. A signature Caribbean Sea blue is achieved via this photographic printing process—the hue materializing once chemically treated fabric or paper is exposed to sunlight. Nature remains core to the work; Vissepó presents outlines of rocks, leaves and flowers gathered during trips to her homeland alongside family records and photographs. As with the Taíno carvers of centuries afore, Vissepó has discovered something profoundly healing and human by documenting the ephemeral. “Because flowers die, of course,” the artist says. “But printing gives them another life.”