Meet Manuela, Our Artist in Residence

Tell us a bit about yourself
I am a queer, disabled, immigrant artist from Colombia, and my practice focuses mainly on visual art that talks about my experience. I emigrated at 6 years old with my family and I have been in Mohkinstsis ever since.

How did you get started as an artist?
My mom gifted me a set of guided notebooks to practice drawing and colouring when I was 4 years old, so that is one of my earliest memories of practicing artistic endevours and really loving it. Art has always been an outlet for me to express myself as it grounds me when life is good and gives me a sense of accomplishment when life gets hard.

How did you get into painting?
My second semester as a Visual Studies student at the University of Calgary, I took an oil painting class that focused on the human body and that was a game changer. These days it’s hard to paint with oil outside of a studio, so I am currently experimenting with heavy body acrylics and blending them with medium.

How do you feel about being a woman in the art scene in Calgary?

I think the art scene in Calgary is nice in the sense that it kind of feels like a small world where you run into people you know quite often. I would like to see more established spaces by and for 2SLGBTQIA+ Black, Indigenous and racialized artists. I want queer and racialized womanhood to be celebrated everywhere, when I am on the bus, when I’m walking around the city, at a coffee shop on Stephen Avenue, when I get my hair done, in the living room of my friend’s houses…. I want to see our works displayed in the public and the private spheres.

What do you think we can do in the city to better support women in art?

I think that prioritizing the needs of women artists who face oppressions because of white-supremacy, anti-Blackness, colonialism, toxic masculinity, classism, ableism, cis-sexism, transphobia, language barriers and hetero normativity should be something that artist spaces should strive for. Artists speak on the culture they exist in and also have the power to influence it by expressing themselves. Listening to the experiences of people who have been systemically excluded from decision-making rooms and creating real change that allows them to feel safe in these rooms and voice their opinions can powerfully change an environment for the better.

What are you most excited about for your residency here at the Women’s Centre?
I am excited to work with everyone at the Women’s Centre and meet new people in a creative atmosphere! I am also really excited for the portraiture workshop. I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!

What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism to me is a process in constant flux because living in a patriarchal society and choosing comfort by relying on the status quo can result in a lack of humility and awareness. Feminism to me means releasing that comfort in favour of liberation. Colonial institutions have othered women like me and intersectional feminism can be a powerful tool to use in the face of this oppression.

Who is, or was, an influential woman in your life?
Both of my grandmothers have had a huge influence on my life. I have learned so much from being around them and being blessed with their presence. Even though I grew up in a whole other continent, I spent almost every summer of my childhood with them. My grandmothers are two very powerful, complex women who have such different views on life and so much of the good in my life is thanks to them. 


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