Briefly describe the work you do.
As an artist, I have dedicated my life to photographing ancient customs, religious festivities, and traditional artifacts typical of different cultures. This is done in order to record and preserve the cultural heritage and collective memory of a given place or ethnic group. I believe it is important to value the past in order to better understand the future, the diversity, and the history of the human race.
Afterwards I convert the shots into new images, through the use of various techniques that help me translate, reword, or add information that would not have appeared in the original picture otherwise.
At present I am printing my photos on fabric over which I embroider images and textures. In turn, these added images and textures function as the brush-strokes, sketch lines or focus in a painting and they enhance the original photography by the addition of plastic and tactile elements that give back some of the content lost in the translation from the digital photo to the cloth.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I realize that being an artist was an unconscious decision. When I was little, culture was a very important part in my life: books, history and science were usual topics. During holidays we spent time going to all kinds of museums and historical sights.
Later, when I was studying art, I was sure I would be an engraver, but I got a nasty eye infection. The doctor told my I could not work with chemical or acid for a while, so I started taking photos instead and sending them to the lab to be develop. After that I never stop shooting.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
Half of my time I am talking pictures and researching, the other half is working in the studio. The good thing about embroidery is that I can work anywhere: while waiting for the doctor’s appointment, hanging with old friends, etc. So I take a bag with yarns and needles and settle a camp studio!
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I did not think I would end teaching people about their own culture.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I usually work in art whenever I have time left. I am a photographer, so I divide my time in four main activities:
- I take pictures for other companies, like magazines, web design agencies, etc.
- I teach photography.
- I take photos of intangible heritage.
- I do art whenever I am not doing any of the other three things on this list.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My artwork has change a lot in the last three years. Before that I worked the image as traditional photo, but in 2012 I started embroidering the image, to change and enhance it message. Today I am working translating the photographic image into a code: one pixel, one stitch.
I think, in the other hand, it is the same, because I am still working with the topics I think are important: ecology, everyday life, heritage and culture.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
I don’t think they know, but my family has had a lot of influence in my work. I have done different pieces inspired in the life, the personalities and decisions of my grandparents and siblings. The last I made was “Still Life” a coral and sea depth crochet series, using the yarn I inherited after my grandmother death.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
Yes, when I was young I used to read and write a lot. For some time I studied to be a biochemist, but I think working with photos and images was stronger than anything else.
Paula has exhibited in Chile and abroad including shows at Iberoamericanos, competition, itinerant exhibition in Bolivia, Paraguay and Perú, and Segunda Muestra Iberoamericana de Arte Miniatura y Pequeño Formato, Centro Cultural Plaza Fátima, Mexico.
She has published several books about cultural heritage.
In 2014, Paula received a award from “Transparentarte” competition, Consejo para la Transparencia (Government sponsored competition) Santiago, Chile. Paula lives and works in Santiago, Chile.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.