ARTS - Olga Ayala


Olga is an artist, painter, ceramist and a "Polymer Clay" sculptor..  She sells and shows her work in venues all over the world. 

Olga grew up in "El Barrio" in New York City. Her artistic awakening came about one day, while still a child, when she saw her mother draw a "life-like depiction" of Mickey Mouse. From this experience, the door to her artistic desires was opened. Later on she also discovered her mother had wanted to be an artist but chose to "be a mom" and raise her children instead.

From the moment Olga learned of her mother’s talent, she wanted to become an artist and she asked her mother to teach her. From that time on, her mother (her muse) did all that she could to encourage and support Olga's pursuit of her artistic goals. In the scheme of life, Olga saw becoming an artist as a way to carry on her mother's artistic dream. 


Over time, her mother eventually returned to the arts to paint and create ceramic pieces. It was her mother's work with ceramics that drew Olga's attention and she began to explore this art form as well. Once again, Olga's mother opened another creative door. Olga experimented, but did not feel satisfied by the results from ceramics. This interest in ceramics did however lead her to explore working with polymer clay.

Olga found that she liked working with polymer clay more than the ceramics for a number of reasons.  While polymer clay is moldable like traditional clay, she found that it did not need the high temperatures, necessary for regular clay, to fire it. She discovered that polymer clay could be "cooked" to hardness in a regular oven, the process is quicker and the results more consistent.

Olga found her artistic calling through her polymer clay creations. With her hands she molds life into objects and figures depicting everyday life, dance and music. Many of her creations reflect her Puerto Rican culture and the love and respect she feels towards it.

 Q&A with Olga -

DCB:  In reading the various articles about you, I picked up on a couple of threads of information that I wanted to clarify. What people or occurrences influenced your becoming an artist, besides your mother? One article mentioned your grandfather. Can you tell us something about his influence?

Olga:  My maternal grandfather, Gregorio Marzan once asked me as a young girl what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I told him I wanted to be an artist, he laughed and said I would starve and struggle all my life and only find fame once I’m dead! He worked in a doll factory at the time and he would always bring me really cool toys from work, such as marionette puppets that were more like works of art than toys. In his spare time he often “tinkered” with found objects and created whimsical pieces and made toys for me.

When he retired, he took his “tinkering” to a whole new level. He began to create sculptures using papier-mâché and ordinary household objects like popsicle sticks, gift wrap paper, wire hangers, and wigs to name a few. He continued to amaze me on how you can take “junk” and transform it. All you needed was a vision, the rest would follow.

Before I knew it, his work was being recognized by collectors of folk art and was included in various museum exhibitions and private collections. By this time he was hard of hearing and partially blind. He also had prostate cancer, but he kept working.

About Gregorio Marzan

SAAM page for Gregorio Marzan
Smithsonian American Art Museum

He died at the age of 91, and I believe it was his art that kept him going. I look back on his comment to me as a young girl and smile, because despite what he originally thought, he was proof that you can pursue your passion and be recognized in your own lifetime.

DCB:  I read that you have a deep love of music and (like your father) play percussionist instruments. Is this pursued more for fun or do you play in a band now or have you ever?

Olga:  I wanted my father to teach me to play timbales when I was little but he didn’t believe playing drums was appropriate for girls. When we would have parties my father would take out the cowbell, maracas, claves, guiro and anything else that was small that you could beat a rhythm on and pass them out to anyone willing to play or make fools of them selves in the name of fun. I eventually started my own collection and learned with his guidance how to really play them. Although I don’t play professionally, I’m a star in my own mind! LOL!

DCB:  With your father being a practicing musician, you were influenced musically and artistically by what you heard and saw. When did you begin creating artistic pieces reflecting music and dance?

Olga:  Although my father doesn’t play in public anymore, memories of seeing him perform, his facial expressions, the way he would grunt to keep the beat, are still fresh in my mind. These memories transfer to the physical gestures, movement, and expressive faces found in many of my pieces.

My sculpts of musicians and dancers began when my daughter was 7 years old. At the time we lived in an area of Staten Island with very few Latinos. I started to use my art as a creative method of introducing her to our culture on a daily basis.

These days I’m often commissioned to create portrait sculpts of musicians and dancers, many of them Puerto Rican folk musicians, along with other musical genres.

DCB:  Of the artistic pieces you have created, what is your favorite and which would be the most memorable (if it is not the same piece)?

Olga:  Whoa! That would be like trying to decide if I had more than one child, which one is my favorite. They’re all my “children” and I love them all for different reasons.

DCB:  Thanks for being part of DC Bebop Arts page and for taking the time to answer a few questions.  I hope that anyone reading about you here will visit the links to see your fabulous work and if in the area of an exhibit, will take the time to walk-in to experience them first-hand.

The above is a composite bio summarized  from posted interviews (see Olga's Links in left column) and a few questions I asked of her.

Olga's website
Back to the ARTS page