Briefly describe the work you do.
I am a contemporary Bolivian American artist. My goal is to expose Bolivian culture and heritage to a much larger audience through art. This artwork is a visual representation of how the Bolivians express themselves through American eyes.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I am directly influenced by my cultural heritage. am part bolivian(maternal) and part american(paternal). Both connect me specifically with my past and present, therefore I bring to my art a quality which is rooted in the culture of Bolivia and expanded by the experience of being American. Bringing together folklore and historical memory I try and illustrate the complexities of cultural identity, and acknowledge my personal experience of being a hybrid.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I love a good designated area for studio space. I love being surrounded by costumes that I’ve acquired from Bolivia. It is temple for creation, a time for reflection and work, to build on ones beliefs and theories. A time to display ones own philosophies and put them into practice.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I always knew I wanted to create art, but what I didn’t know was the path my art would take, and how closely it would relate to my own lineage. I find myself constantly explaining to others what Bolivian American art is. Something that I am constantly in debate over and will ultimately be an endless journey. I think thats the thing that keeps me going is that I know its forever ongoing, and it’s my contribution to the art world.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
The best time of day for me to make art would be very late at night. After a full day of activities it is the best time to reflect and react to a day.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
In the past five years my work has been more about studying and exploring. I am learning everyday and am constantly figuring out ways to incorporate my knowledge, or my understanding of specific events into my work. I believe in symbolism and spirituality, these things have always stayed the same in my work because I believe them to be important.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Family is a big part, but I also believe everything I see and being able to travel helps me to absorb and eat everything around me. I am a big Morrissey fan, which I believe correlates in a way with the laments of Bolivia. Raul Lara Torres, is a Bolivian artist who is also very influential to me, he was a bit obsessed with Van Gogh, and would fit him into Bolivian landscapes traveling. I find this both interesting and beautiful.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I would do something related to philanthropy. I recently started a non profit organization with my family. Currently a board member to “Salud para Bolivia” (health for Bolivia), it is an organization which giving medical supplies to Bolivia.
Charlene Eckels is a Bolivian/American artist. Born in Jacksonville, NC and raised in Wilmington, NC she aims at promoting a Bolivian agenda that includes social and cultural heritage through art. By demonstrating the themes and stories of the Bolivians she hopes to create a dialogue and give some insight into this latin american culture. Charlene is currently studying at UNCW, but has also taken time out of her formal education schedule to gain life experience. She lived and studied at the National art school in Bolivia, S.A., to experience her Bolivian roots. While there, she taught art to children in orphanages. She even survived a airplane crash in the Amazon jungle. She also lived in London, England, and worked with a British government program to assimilate Muslim women into British culture. Charlene has also travelled to Bahrain. Recently she went on a study abroad program to Ireland. She incorporates her experiences into her artwork. She specializes in Bolivian themes with a rich and brilliant palette in various paint and ink media. She also enjoys showcasing the colors and culture of her Bolivian heritage. Bolivia is a hidden treasure of south america. Even more exclusive is the existence of bolivian artwork being promoted internationally
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.