The tropical rain forests of Costa Rica are so saturated with nature’s grandeur that it is no wonder Rosita Gottlieb uses the lay of the land as the sole muse for her artwork. From the lush jungles accented by majestic waterfalls and wildflowers to the wealth of wildlife that call this pristine, secluded land home, Rosita captures this endless stream of inspiration in all her oil paintings.

“I grew up in the capital city of San Jose, but nearby were always elements of wonder, of nature displaying its manysplendored possibilities,” Rosita recounts. “From that exposure, I became drawn to everything about the rain forest! The sights. The sounds. The smells. The trees. The plants. The flowers. The sky. The clouds. The rain. The ground. The animals. The ever-changing and wondrous tapestry of life and movement.”

Rosita fell in love with both the tropical rain forest and the world of art at a young age. “I’ve always had an intimate interest she says. “I studied at the Art Students League of New York with Hans Hoffman and other outstanding teachers and later, in Mexico, at the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes. In Mexico, I also had the great fortune to work and study under David Alfaro Siqueiros, one of the greatest muralists of the last century.

“I have lived in many different places, including the United States, Panama, Mexico, and Israel, and I have been fortunate to have had many solo exhibitions in places such as Mexico City, Tel Aviv, London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Taipei.”

After her life and career had taken her to other parts of the world, Rosita returned to Costa Rica in 1989 to reconnect with its natural beauty. She quickly learned how much of the lush rain forest had been lost due to population growth and development, a destruction that was sadly common in other tropical countries as well. “Throughout the tropical world, rain forests staggering rate,” says Rosita. “One notable exception is now Costa Rica—a small, beautiful land of mountains, forests, lowlands, rivers, sandy beaches, and more than a half-million species of plants and animals.”

The Costa Rican government made a strong commitment to conservation and halting further destruction. As a result, more than a quarter of the country is protected after being designated as national parks, wildlife refuges, marine sanctuaries, conservation areas, and biological reserves. All this has made Costa Rica a leader in the global conservation movement and a popular tourism destination that draws more than two million visitors a year.


These developments motivated Rosita to begin painting images of the rain forest and to exhibit the work to bring attention to the conservation cause. “I decided to paint what I loved so much and to dedicate my artwork to the message of rain forest conservation,” Rosita says. “The threatened creatures and plants are my inspiration. Costa Rica is a tiny country but has taken a global leadership role in preserving and expanding rain forests and biological diversity. I regard my images—the plants, the animals, the waterfalls—as spokesmen for the cause of protecting one of nature’s most beautiful treasures. They encompass visions of hope for conservation efforts and act as reminders of our duty to respect nature if we want to enjoy its bounty. That’s why I keep painting them.”


She is still at it some twenty-five years later. She uses an artist’s spatula to apply oil, marble sand, beeswax, and wire mesh on canvases to recreate the rich textural dynamism and beauty of rain forest life. The artistic direction of the subject matter stems from both her memories of the rain forest as a child and her recent visits that offer fresh perspectives. Although she has dabbled with other subject matters, the rain forest offers endless inspiration. “Over the more than fifty years I have been painting, I have tended to paint in series,” Rosita says. “They’ve included dancing, meditation, old houses, books that have inspired me, the old city of Jerusalem, and, of course, nature. My longest series has been the rain forest, since 1989.”

Rosita has gained a reputation as a bold colorist, although she describes her artistic style as “formally expressionistic,” adding, “Critics have said I use paint freely and loosely and, along with other materials, generate very textural and boldly colorful canvases. That describes my work best.”

Rosita, who now lives in Southern California, finds the creative process joyful and rejuvenating. “My life is full and enriched with family, friends, and meditation,” she adds. “I feel blessed.”

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