Portrait of Lucía Howell Vargas. Costa Rican contemporary art.
May 20, 2024 0 Artist Spotlight Belinda

Exploring the Interplay of Music, Movement, and Visual Art in the world of Costa Rican Contemporary Art.


Lucía Howell Vargas is a multifaceted artist based in San José, Costa Rica, whose work blends the worlds of performing and visual arts.

With a background rooted in dance, Howell Vargas has dedicated over a decade of her life to mastering this discipline, collaborating with esteemed choreographers like María Amalia Pendones and Vanessa de la O.

It’s this unique connection between movement and music that sets Howell Vargas apart and makes her an exciting prospect in the Costa Rican contemporary art scene.

"The body is matter inside a physical space; it can expand and merge with space." Howell Vargas


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Dance as a Source of Inspiration

For Howell Vargas, dance isn't just a form of expression; it's a source of inspiration that permeates every aspect of her life. Her years of training have instilled in her a deep understanding of the interplay between the body and space, which she seamlessly translates into her work.

Whether it's the fluidity of movement or the dynamic energy of a performance, Howell Vargas’ art is imbued with the essence of dance, inviting viewers to explore the beauty of motion in a static form.

Performance Art as Immersive Experience

Her approach to performance art goes beyond mere spectacle; it's about creating immersive experiences that include the viewer, inviting critical thought. It's this approach that makes her contribution to the Costa Rican contemporary art so enticing.

Take, for instance, her acclaimed series 'Fangal (Bog),' at the contemporary art space Cero Uno in San José, where she dons a striking black costume adorned with tendrils, moving dynamically within the gallery space as spectators encircle her.

Through meticulously choreographed movements, Lucía assumes an otherworldly guise, blurring the boundaries between reality and fantasy, inviting viewers to step into her surreal world and experience art in a whole new way.

Costa Rican contemporary art. Close-up acrylic painting by artist Lucía Howell Vargas of her performance art. She is wearing a large black costume making her look like a bog creature.

Lucía Howell Vargas, Untitled #1, 2023, Acrylic on canvas

Costa Rican contemporary art. Close-up acrylic painting by artist Lucía Howell Vargas of her performance art. She is wearing a large black costume making her look like a bog creature.

Lucía Howell Vargas, Untitled #2, 2023, Acrylic on canvas

Her paintings from this series, exemplified by pieces like Untitled #1 and Untitled #2, directly stem from the immersive experience of her performance 'Fangal (Bog)'. In these works, Howell Vargas captures the essence of intimate moments from the performance, translating them onto canvas.

With a limited colour pallet of black, grey, and flesh tones, she infuses her costume with a new identity and meaning, transforming it into surreal, almost alien-like forms.

Some of these paintings intricately depict bits of flesh, evoking bodily shapes and sensations that draw viewers deeper into the enigmatic narrative. Others, devoid of flesh tones, focus solely her costume and the subsequent interplay of black, alien forms, that are both uncanny and visually complex, leaving room for interpretation and exploration.

Transformation of Everyday Objects

Howell Vargas' transforms everyday objects into extraordinary expressions of her inner self. From paintings to mirror installations to glass sculptures, she takes seemingly mundane materials and infuses them with new life and meaning.

Each piece reflects her unique perspective, offering viewers a glimpse into her world and inviting them to see the beauty in the ordinary.

Her acrylic mirrored pieces encapsulate a compelling fusion of form and reflection, of the everyday and the Other. Each mirror is intricately shaped into partially recognisable forms —be it delicate butterflies, verdant plants, enigmatic eyes, or otherworldly alien motifs.

Abstract devil mirror by Lucía Howell Vargas. Front view. Abstract mirror by Lucía Howell Vargas of an alien. Front view. Costa Rican contemporary art. Abstract mirror ghost artwork mirror by Lucía Howell Vargas. Front view. Abstract eyes artwork mirror by Lucía Howell Vargas. Front view.

Lucía Howell Vargas, acrylic mirrors: Devil, Alien, Ghost, Eyes (top left to bottom right)

Like all of Howell Vargas' works, these mirrors seem to possess a life of their own, playfully mimicking something living. As you gaze upon them, they not only reflect your image but also seem to interact with you, inviting you into a world where reality and imagination converge.

Through these acrylic mirrored pieces, Howell Vargas invites viewers to explore the magic of reflection and the playful dance between perception, and reality.


Further exploration of Light, Space, and Reflection

Howell Vargas created a body of paintings inspired by her exploration of the interplay of light, space, and reflection.

Untitled #1 (below), comprised of soft hues of blues and greys that are punctuated by flashes of pinks or purples, showcases Howell Vargas’ approach of painting areas onto the surface of the canvas that appear reflective. These sections of the canvas are reminiscent of mirrors and the reflections she observed in her own room during the painting process.

Costa Rican contemporary art. Painting by Lucía Howell Vargas featuring a female nude and areas of the areas that are reflective, as if mirrored.

Lucía Howell Vargas, Untitled #1, 2023, Acrylic on canvas

The depiction of the nude female body, alongside the intimate colours and reflections, evokes a sense of voyeurism, offering something deeply personal and sensual while inviting viewers to contemplate the complexities of human experience.

Ground-breaking Exhibition at Craig Krull Gallery

In a huge moment for Costa Rican contemporary art, Howell Vargas was part of a group exhibition titled "Seguimos" at Santa Monica's Craig Krull Gallery in the US.

This significant exhibition marked a milestone as it showcased the works of several Costa Rican artists in the United States for the first time. "Seguimos," which translates to "We Continue," not only highlighted the diverse talents of Costa Rican artists but also served as a testament to the growing recognition of Central American art on the international stage.

Howell Vargas' participation in this exhibition with her video loop “Villi” further solidified her position as a leading figure in the Costa Rican contemporary art scene, earning acclaim for her innovative approach to blending performing and visual arts.

Through her contributions to "Seguimos," she played a pivotal role in amplifying the voices of Costa Rican artists and paving the way for greater visibility and appreciation of their work globally.


Howell Vargas is an exciting Costa Rican artist who brings a unique edge to the contemporary art scene through her innovative approach, blending music, movement, and visual expression while continually pushing artistic boundaries.

About Howell Vargas. Click here to download her CV.

b. 1992, Costa Rica Lives and works in San José

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