Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Olga de Amaral studied fabric art at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. Amaral is a renowned artist whose evolving technique, incorporating fiber, paint, gesso and precious metals transforms two-dimensional textiles into sculptural works that seamlessly integrate art, craft, and design. In their engagement with materials and process her works become essentially unclassifiable and self-reflexively authentic. Amaral is an important figure in the development of post-war Latin American abstraction. Her creation of “off stretcher” works, using non-traditional materials, acquires greater historical resonance with each passing year.
Amaral’s work is deeply driven by her exploration of Colombian culture and her own identity. Architecture, mathematics, landscape, and socio-cultural dichotomies in Colombia are woven together through the use of fiber. Understanding and being understood is an important part of her work. Through a complex system based on artisanal technique, she finds answers to inner questions. Her golden surfaces of light thus embody the secrets of her soul.
Her use of gold, inspired by the interwoven histories of pre-Hispanic and Colonial art, gives her work a presence at once sensual and otherworldly. In his prologue essay to the book Olga de Amaral: El Manto de la Memoria (2000), Edward-Lucie-Smith comments on the transcendent qualities of her art: "A large part of Olga's production has been concerned with gold, but there are in fact no equivalents for what she makes in Pre-Columbian archaeology. Nevertheless one feels that such objects ought in logic to exist —that she has supplied a lack."
Amaral founded and directed the textiles department at the Universidad de los Andes (University of the Andes) in Bogotá in 1965. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1973, and in 2005 was named “Artist Visionary” by the Museum of Art and Design in New York. In 2008, she was honorary Co-Chair for the benefit of the Multicultural Audience Development Initiative, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Amaral has exhibited in institutions worldwide and the full range of her work is represented in the collections of over forty museums including the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan, San Francisco’s De Young Museum, the Museum Bellerive in Zürich, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Renwick Gallery of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.
She currently lives and works in Bogotá, Colombia.