Almaraz is an environmental biologist who received her PhD from Brown University in 2016. She reflects on her relationship with her father before and after his death.
My father, Carlos Almaraz, died when I was six years old. I was too young to have gathered a great deal of experiential memory of my time with him, so my relationship with him was and is one with his art. My father lives today as the many pieces of art on my walls, and that is how I know him best. I know him as the optimist who sees a smog-filled Los Angeles sky in a deep, majestic, moonlight purple. I know him as the romantic who turned a seedy barrio park into the backdrop for a lovers’ boat ride under the stars. I know him as the scientist who separates biotic from abiotic, evolution from carnage, and energy from fear, as he demonstrates beauty in a freeway car crash. And I know him as the trickster who snuck a champagne bottle into my favorite abstract painting.
My favorite piece of his is one we painted together. This painting represents the inseparable nature of our relationship. The painting is filled with a six-year-old’s attempts to recreate an artist’s images, and illustrates the quiet but unmistakable influence he has had on me. A near-stranger whose blood is my own has shaped me to my core. The painting is a mix between the two of us. Sadly, this piece was burned in a house fire years ago. All we were able to recover of it was the bottom strip, but this strip is perhaps as important as the whole. Saving what we had seemed oddly appropriate, as it was the foundation of our work together. This painting has since evolved into a different piece of art, with new meaning, and a history that lives beyond its origin. It speaks to how in our brief years together, my father, like parents all over the world, has shaped who I am, yet has not determined who I will become.