Belkis Ayón (b. Havana, Cuba, 1967 – d. Havana, Cuba, 1999) was a Cuban printmaker who specialized in the technique of callography. She is known for her predominantly black-and-white, largely detailed allegorical collographs based on the Abakúa, an all-male Afro Cuban society. Her figures are often ghost-like with oblong heads and empty eyes, set against dark or patterned backgrounds. From 1982-1986 she attended the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts, Havana, after which she attended the Higher Institute of Art (ISA) in Havana from 1986-1991 where she gained a Bachelor’s in engraving, and joined the faculty after graduation. After the fall of the Soviet Union, supplies became difficult to find and so she attached a variety of differing textured materials (vegetable peelings, paper, abrasives) to a cardboard substrate, painting over it to create dimension. She would then run the “collage” through the printing press, and craved the resulting prints creating intricate patterns and depth. Her works masterfully combine figuration and areas of abstract painting. Towards the end of her career, she worked on a large scale sometimes joining as many as 18 sheets together to make a single image. Ayón’s work has been widely exhibited. She has been featured in collective shows in Canada, South Korea, Europe and the United States. In 1993 she exhibited at the 16th Venice Biennale and won the International Prize at the International Graphics Biennale in the Netherlands. In 1998, she received four residencies in the United States; she was also elected Vice-President of the Association of Plastic Artists of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba. She committed suicide the following year. She was 32 years old. Her work can now be found in permanent collections around the world, including MOCA Los Angeles, the MOMA in New York, El Museo del Barrio in New York and the Fowler Museum.
Untitled (unknown edition), 1994, silkscreen print, 7 × 5"