Santa Teresa Steps, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
project was inspired by the decorated steps that lead up a
long hill to the neighborhood of Santa Teresa, in Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil. Project organizer Jessie Audette (right)
lived in Rio for 5 years and enjoyed walking up the Santa
Teresa steps with her husband.
Chilean artist Jorge Selaron decorated the Santa Teresa steps
himself, declaring the project to be "a gift to Rio de Janeiro".
This project will be our gift to the Golden Gate Heights
neighborhood, the Sunset District, and the City of San Francisco.
Translation, excerpts of an interview with Selarón on August 18,
2002 by Denise Fonseca:
"This project started in 1990, as my homage to the Brazilian people,
using the colors of the flag of Brazil: green, blue and yellow… The
tiles were broken with a hammer to obtain a style known as Byzantine
mosaic, mixing pieces of tile, entire tiles, pieces of mirror,
crystals, and pieces of porcelain. Whenever I obtain prettier and
more sophisticated tiles, I place them on the steps, exchanging them
with others, so that the appearance of the steps is in constant
change. The work has become a tile collection with 1,000 different
pieces, open day and night to the public. It has Portuguese,
Italian, French, Dutch, Belgian, Russian, German, English, Spanish,
Moroccan, Egyptian, Turkish, Greek, Mexican and Brazilian tiles.
… The stairway has 215 steps, 17 landings, and 16 entrances and it
is four meters wide. I thank the neighbors and friends who have
always helped to conserve my work, made with such sacrifice,
obsession and affection. I will only finish this work on the last
day of my life.
When I started the stairs, twelve years ago, I started with the
bathtubs. [At the foot of the steps are several bathtubs which
Selarón has transformed into planters. He humorously refers to them
as the “suspended gardens”]…. The thing was that I started to
arrange the stairs little by little. First it was with the bathtubs,
and during six years nothing happened. But I was happy because the
stairs were clean and had a garden with bathtubs. I thought that
this was original; I had never seen stairs with bathtubs anywhere in
the world... [then came] the tiles and the possibility that they
offered to keep the work open, in transformation, allowing countless
changes without damaging the whole. Then I started to like it. It
was emotional, because I had never made sculpture in my life. It
seemed that God wanted me to make it with my own hands. I was
dreaming for ten years about making sculpture... and continue...
today, I am still dreaming of tiles!"
Jorge Selarón was born in Valparaiso, Chile, in 1947. A self-taught
painter, he left his country 30 years ago and since then has visited
more than 50 countries. He lived in Europe for two years, in Mexico
City for two years, in New York, a year and a half in India and
seven years in Panama City. He has held over 150 expositions of his
paintings throughout the Americas. He has lived in the city of Rio
de Janeiro for 16 years, is married to a Brazilian and lives in the
Santa Teresa neighborhood, where he has an atelier.