Marcela Bolivar was born and raised in Brazil. She was also raised in Colombia, where her family is from. Bolivar is now based in Germany, where she earned her Master’s in Photography. Bolivar’s art background mainly comes from photography and painting, although she did study graphic design, but ended up straying from that path in order to begin developing her own ideas with the techniques that interest her the most. Bolivar started drawing when she was little, “My real interest in art and creation came in my adolescence. That was when I experimented everything, painting, drawing, photography, sculpture. All of that makes part of what my work is right now.”
“…experimenting, failing, experimenting again, and failing again to slowly find what are the visual keys and components of my own world,” is how Bolivar found her voice in art, as well as through reading, watching films, and cultivating her tastes. “I have learned to make my own path. Most of the advice I’ve heard in my life about career paths haven’t ever applied to me, making me feel always like a fish out of water.” Bolivar feels that she is not enough of a photographer to be in photographic circles, not traditional enough to be considered an illustrator, but she has made her own decisions and put her feet on the door, “…sometimes with fear even but I have found my own way of doing things either way, [it] is something I have discovered about me, that still surprise[s] me after all these years, and I am proud of it.” Bolivar believes that getting an education for Art is a very personal decision, “…most developed countries have very accessible education, which I think is a disservice not to take advantage of. In art school and universities in general you meet people with your same interests, you make projects that otherwise wouldn’t be possible, you get funded and protected as a student in plenty of countries and have this sacred space in time to just learn. To not take that opportunity I think is very sad…what art school has taught me about myself I haven’t learned anywhere else. You have all your life to work, if you can study now and be part of an academic circle, do it.”
Bolivar’s background in photography influences her art through producing an image through photographic fragments, “…that alone makes a big impact in my whole body of work. The influence photography has in pictures is mostly what I love most in images, in art and in literature, the kind of work that makes you ask yourself, ‘Is that real?”, ‘Is that fiction?’, ‘How was that made?’ Through photography I can merge different worlds in just one seamless creation, serving my own weird ideas.” Additionally, the study of graphic design also influenced Bolivar’s art, “It wasn’t after studying graphic design that I knew what I wanted to do, I actually had two separate lives. One being a very mediocre student and the other making…images with hundreds of photos and painting and starting to build my own style. At the end of my academic career I said, ‘Whatever, I am going to show what I feel I do best.’ and it was a great success.” Bolivar feels very proud of her final project, “Mercury, Sulfur, and Ash” as it impacted her art enormously, “It solidified my skills, helped my visual storytelling, made me look deeper and with more effort after my own photos, [and] made me paint my own textures again. It kind of made my style finally make sense somehow.”
Bolivar has had it a challenge to find her own voice while being inspired by so many artists. However, in order to combat these challenges, Bolivar had to learn how to step back, “I try to analyze carefully the concepts I choose to illustrate, which symbols I pick. Sometimes I fall into overthinking and making everything a convoluted process, but that also teaches me how to let go of some project[s]. Inspirations are always welcome and [I] search actively for them, but ultimately, I have to understand that what I want is not to reproduce someone else’s vision, but to show beauty and ugliness in my eyes.” In achieving this, Bolivar finds her own voice through her art, “What I always search for is to find my own words and construct my very own world with it. That takes time and effort, to understand yourself and your language, the way you interpret things teaches you new things about your mind, the great frontier of knowing yourself can be done through art too, but it can be a painful process.”
The way art has shaped Bolivar’s world, herself, and others’ identities is a long one, where she believes that the things she had as a child made for her being able to have a career path, her destiny, and overall her identity. “I am very fortunate to have encouraging parents, to have had a computer in my childhood and a camera in a country where those are real luxuries or are hard earned goods. Those things don’t mean the same in those countries, they mean you can choose your career, that you can choose your destiny, and therefore, choose your identity. I could choose to be freed from an identity or be part of it, I did realize soon into university that is not a decision everyone could make.” Bolivar continues, “I do realize that choosing one’s identity and not being imposed one is a luxury…I don’t really identify myself with any man-created nation, but most of my geographic attachments and inspiration come from the tropical jungle, the flora within it and its mystery. [It] is something that has haunted my work and my mind and that even inspired my master thesis. Being now away from Colombia makes me yearn those mountains and that special wilderness that don’t exist here, making me view it in another light.” In terms of her Latinx identity, Bolivar identifies with the social and economic inequalities most, or all, Latin American countries face, “I haven’t ever considered myself a specially courageous person but when I look back in my life and compare it to the comfort and stability of the first world societies I realize that some kind of decisions considered as bold by others, are just really in my blood.” Bolivar adds that she has been treated differently due to her identity as a Latinx person, however, that does not change or impact her art in any way. In terms of what she identifies least with her Latinx identity, Bolivar states, “There is a pernicious spirit in Latin America that corrodes our identity and our own individual psyche, this is inferiority complex.” She does not identify with those who have special treatment simply because they are from the first world or a more fortunate background while still hating their own skin.
Bolivar’s successes in art revolve in her finding her own language. She offers this advice to those who are new to art or want to become artists: “You have to really want it, ask yourself if you want it as a hobby or as a way to pay your bills and make your life work, those can be two very different ways to have art in your life. Cultivate your skills, your inspirations, read good books, watch good movies, learn about science, philosophy, anything that can make [you] ask yourself more questions, and then, create something.”
You can find Bolivar on Instagram @tropicalgloom, on twitter @tropicalgloom, on marcelabolivar.com and on https://www.inprnt.com/gallery/marcelabolivar/ .