UIW alumna finds window to her soul through painting

Rebecca DeLeón Almazán with her works of art.

By Antonio Cantú

Rebecca DeLeón Almazán had no artistic aspirations after graduating from Incarnate Word College with a chemistry/biology double major. Her mind was focused on rigid scientific logic, but today the ’57 graduate is fully immersed in creativity with abstract art creations.

While the two pursuits may seem inconsistent, she explained their commonalities in a recent interview. The process of spawning single-cell organisms for study in a laboratory petri dish is just as inherently artistic and complex as any human-produced canvas creation, she noted.

“I think microbiology is the original art. It is so beautiful,”

Almazán said. “It would take me so long to study because I was so entranced with the organisms. I could stay and watch them all day long, and that’s how it is in art.”

It was not until Almazán returned from Madrid, Spain, where her husband James had military air base duty at Torrejón de Ardos that her creative juices began to flow.

“I was immersed in so much art in Madrid,” she recalled.

“When I got back stateside, I could not forget all these images that were still in my head. It was Madrid where I was channeled into art.”

Just as a college student explores a major searching for a perfect fit, Almazán recalled early, tentative steps in finding an artistic voice.

“I had done representational art for a while and could do it very well, but I did not enjoy the process,” she recalled of pursuing her artistic path in 1996. “I was later introduced to abstract art and let loose.”

There were initial missteps. Almazán said she was asked to leave the first studio she joined after departing too far interpretatively, inadvertently inspiring other students to stray from the genre’s artistic form.

“It started affecting the other students who would say ‘I want to paint like Rebecca,’ ” she said. “So I was asked to leave.”

She was soon to meet her artistic soul mate, the late Mexico-born abstract artist Alberto Mijangos, who operated an art school/gallery on San Antonio’s south side. The renowned artist’s abstracts dealing with social and spiritual issues resonated powerfully with Almazán.

“I eventually became his apprentice, and that changed my life completely,” she said. “I learned so much from him and he was so proud of me.”

To gaze at an Almazán creation is to glimpse into her passion and emotions. The colors’ vibrancy and the heavy acrylic texture convey her passionate interpretations. This emotionally no-holds-barred approach yielded the title of “Windows of my Soul” for one of her recent exhibits.

“You take a canvas or piece of wood or whatever you want to paint on and start throwing paint on it,” she said. “It’s exhilarating.”

Almazán is one of the only abstract artists in San Antonio, a city with a strong artistic community. She also was something of a pioneer as a female science major at Incarnate Word at a time when few female students pursued scientific disciplines.

“I was fully prepared to face the world after I received my degree at Incarnate Word,” she said. “I know that sounds kinda hokey, but it’s true.”

Today, Almazán paints every day from her circa-1920s Olmos Park home. Further inspiration came after inviting a group of low-income, artistically inclined high school students. Moved by their passion, it’s prompted her to contemplate repeat tours for young people.

“It was an epiphany. These kids are so bright and so eager to learn.”

Describing their eagerness as magic she hopes to further spark their interest. Nearly a quarter-century after graduating, it seems all roads still lead to education.