Manola Borrajo - Featured Artist for August 2011


Bowen Island

Which artistic media do you prefer to work in and why?

Since 2002, I have been working with a medium that many people see as fragile, but for me it’s a source of infinite possibilities and joy. Glass, I flow with it.

With which past or contemporary artists or artworks do you, as an artist, feel a connection? What is it that draws you to them?

I grew up in Caracas, Venezuela. One of my early memories was going to the Art Gallery there and getting inside the Jesus Soto interactive sculpture called Lluvia (rain). Two of the founders of the Kinetics movement in the world where from Venezuela: Jesus Soto and Carlos Cruz Diez. They found new ways to mix colours and give the spectator the opportunity to be part of the process.

I also love Calder, Matisse, Chagall, Van Gogh, Jacobo Borges, Niki de Saint Phalle, Louise Bourgeois, Moore, Cezanne…

What process or technique in art-making interests you?

I like combining glass with metal. Recently I have been working with Rogelio Menz, a metal sculptor born in Chile. The combination of glass and metal is interesting. Some of the pieces that we have created make the process of art an exciting challenge.  

What technical challenges do you face in the process of making art?

Kilns are sometimes temperamental. You need to work with a set of variables, not just art in the form of composition, colours, and design also the technicality of the process is the key of success in a piece. 

What in your artistic training do you value most at this time?

I consider myself a self-taught artist. I had the opportunity to take classes with great mentors in Caracas, Colorado, Los Angeles and Edmonton. They always encouraged me to follow my instincts for art. In 2002, after painting for eight years with acrylic on wood panels, I found glass, or glass found me; I am still not sure. I was living in Edmonton, Alberta. A company there called Panache Ceramic Industries decided to add glass to their line of ceramic tiles. I knew the owner and she invited me to try. I can’t stop now. I found that glass and I are a good combination. Definitely, I have a glass soul.  

How much of a role do accident and control play in your work?

When you know the kiln and the testing has been done, you can control the process. The paint and the micas that I use don’t change when you fire them. But there’s always an element of uncertainty with all the pieces. In the end, you never know until you open the kiln.

What are some of your artistic challenges at present?

I moved to Vancouver for a year with my family. I love the city, the scenery, but the whole experience has been a challenging. In terms of the art process, it has been slow. I was working very hard in Edmonton. I can’t wait to see what this new experience will bring to my work.

In Vancouver, I had the opportunity to be involved with the Drift Art on Main Street in October and now I love to be a part of Artist in our Midst. I always view showing my work in an exhibition as the culmination of a process. You must get out there and tell your story.

What are some of your artistic accomplishments at present?

I love public art. In my trips from Caracas to the beach I always waited impatiently to have a glance of a beautiful mural of Carlos Cruz Diez. That was on the way. This long mural changed colours and practically danced in front of you. To me, Public Art me is the most important achievement for an artist. Communities need art because art enriches relationships and creates a common ground for interaction and enjoyment. It is a way to create spiritual and cultural growth. Every time I pass in front of a public art piece I wonder. 

In 2010 I was awarded a commission to be part of a beautiful public art project. I called my piece Park-Land-Home because it is inspired in the Parkland region of Alberta. The glass wall is in the new Strathcona County Library in Sherwood Park, Alberta. You can see the video of the installation and unveiling on my website.

Another important accomplishment was that last year I appeared in the book "Creative Glass" by Danijela Kracun and Charles Mc Fadden, a compilation of work by selected international glass artists.

Can you share three things you’ve learned as an artist through your own art?

1. I have the opportunity to talk with an art gallery owner that opened my eyes. Art is a job like many other jobs. And if you want to do well you have to work harder. At that moment I stopped romanticizing and started to get better results. 

2. Trust your instincts.

3. Be obsessive.

When you need inspiration, how to do you get it?

Inspiration is all around me and around us. A Venezuelan artist once said that he doesn’t become inspired; he ponders. For an artist, life and art are one and the same.

When you need to learn more as an artist, how do you do it?

Get out of my comfort zone. Find other artists, share experiences, work together if possible. Take a new course in an art school in a different medium. I just finished my first course in photography. 

What is exciting on your artistic horizon?

If I want to have my art out there the only way to do it is applying for public art work. Proposals are time consuming but are the only way to do it.

I like to take each opportunity very seriously. Being part of Artist in our Midst gives me a great chance to relate with other artists in Vancouver and work on a common ground to achieve the same goals. What a great event! 

What is it about this artwork that led you to choose it for this feature?

I want for this exhibit to develop an idea that has been with me since I arrived in Vancouver five months ago. Now it has a name: glass journal. If people can write about their travels and experiences I will do it through glass. In the history of art many artists traveled to foreign lands to see the quality of the light in other latitudes, to explore new subjects, to meet other artists. My move from Edmonton to Vancouver doesn’t sound as big a change; however, there are many substantial differences like the prairies vs. the ocean; the blue skies vs. the rain; the traditional vs. the trendy; the familiar vs. the unknown.

Here I am now; I show the changes. Bowen Island is the first piece of the Glass journal story.