Bertha Otoya was born in 1979 in Peru. After moving to the United States, she became an artist at Creativity Explored in 2007. Originally focused on textile work, Otoya used traditional Peruvian techniques to create tapestries and quilts, and enjoyed the repetitive process of sewing.
In 2009 her practice grew exponentially as her focus shifted to printmaking. Stripping her color palette to black and white (occasionally red and blue), her print work has achieved an iconic status and is avidly collected by patrons. Her use of repetition is seen abundantly in these prints. Otoya often begins on a white ground by painstakingly appropriating, then recopying, writing from a variety of source texts, mostly written in English, not her native language. The resultant text becomes an amazing collage of prose that warrants close inspection if the hidden meaning between her chance juxtapositions is to be revealed. Layered over the text is an array of fabulous (and sometimes terrifying) beasts and figures whose solidity and careful rendering add an anchoring counterpoint to the ephemeral, shifting text beneath.
Otoya uses this same technique to create scrolls. With a combination of hand lettering and block prints, the scrolls reach lengths beyond forty feet and are housed in wooden boxes adorned by the artist. The influence of her printmaking is now evident in her traditional drawing work where repeated images of fish and snakes are layered over washes of color or given alternating shades on their appendages.
Otoya’s work has amazing depth. At once aesthetic and conceptual, it operates on many levels simultaneously, never settling or remaining static, constantly vibrating between meaning and feeling. It is for this reason that she was featured in Create, a traveling exhibition that first opened at University Of California Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive in 2011.