Bolivia | Artista Multidisciplinar | Erika Ewel

A sum of stories

Erika Ewell’s artistic career is more than twenty years long, during which she has tested all types of technique and investigated about numerous themes. From collage to embroidery, passing through installation, the social role of women, and ending in the nostalgia caused by the selling of her father’s house. This is how all of her work, finally, sketches the journey of her own life.

Back in Bolivia, Erika wanted a place to completely call her own. A hideout from the world where everything could fit. Where she could submerge herself, deep down, into her memories, projects, wishes, creativity, work, and family. “At the end of the 80’s, being 17 years old, I went to study to Brasil,” the artist begins, “back then, eager to find a destiny outside my country, doors opened in Mexico: I won a full scholarship for a master’s degree in Visual Arts. Then I went back to Bolivia, at the end of the 90’s, with the idea of settling down: having all my objects in one place; my own space to work, to form a home…”.

3500 meters high, between the Andean peaks, where mountains are set around eight hundred thousand souls, Erika Ewel –female, bolivian, granddaughter, daughter and in those times, a future mother– found what she was looking for. And, in fact, it is her “second” studio in La Paz (because, when she was thirteen years old, she entered the studio of Roberto Valcárcel, conceptual artist), where she can enjoy a beautiful view towards the city, and above all, a prestigious silence.

We would have to ask ourselves if from this place, behind the multi-faceted creative gestures of Erika’s work, that same metropolis in the peak of the world could become one of the “worlds” the artist reveals through imagination, memories, photography, painting or sewing. We would have to find out if the Andean heights that surround her could be the result of the same needle and thread that now, stitch by stitch, create the repeated circumferences that symbolically construct those “worlds,” which are characterized in the textile landscapes of her last series.

It is always –either in La Paz, Belo Horizonte, or Mexico City– about Erika’s exploration into a crossroad of stories: her own, other’s, everybody’s: “…telling stories, creating stories, comparing myself to icons of history, geographically locating my history, healing my history, reflecting my country’s history, being part of history,” she states.

Entre puntadas (2015) seems to latch onto that intention, previously expressed in her life’s work, such as Cartografías (1997), or the more recent Lugar propio (2010) and Paisajes personales (2013), of fulfilling the desire of “geographically situating herself,” or in other words, investigating and intervening the peculiar surrounding experienced after an osmotic impulse between yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Between “me” and “the rest.” In fact, in these creations undoubtedly defined by embroidery and stitches (which have already been used, without a leading role, in other series), many key poetical features of Erika Ewel’s artistic career suddenly reappear. “Routine, femininity, pattern design and intimacy” are blended here, into some landscapes –or in other words, “landscape maps”– that seem to beg to be decoded, read, explored, become known. Being, at last, deepened and intimately shared. “Entre puntadas is a compilation of all my production,” Erika points out,” it is a collage series made by fabric remnants of different quality and width. Especially tapestry fabric with lace and patterns. I cut them, dye them and, then, put them together with a sewing machine, to embroider them later, draw with thread. The landscape is still present; I create small worlds. It is a sequel of the last series of collages.”

The thing is that, in present times, needle and thread take us back to a multidisciplinary tour through twenty long and assorted years of artistic production (through collage, oil painting, photography, installation or textile), even though they finally poke and link the complexity of Erika’s experience: something tied by all the places she has walked through, the words she has pronounced, and her studies. Built due to losses and changes that have been accepted. Written, finally, from differences she has shared, identities she has adopted, and the love she has enjoyed. “It is true that I am a multidisciplinary artist; but in fact I have been doing the same for 24 years,” she answers,” and if you read my artistic production’s journey carefully, it deciphers my personal life in a perfect way. My work is not exclusively about my intimate life; as a creator you have the benefit of invention, but series show important personal events. There are three important aspects in my production: painting, photography and object-books,” she explains.

So, from complex social affairs such as the investigation of the female role (La mujer rota, Doll Papers, 2007) or the Bolivian identity, to absolutely personal events such as –for example– the search for a home (Cartografías, 1997), marriage (Retrato de pareja, 2000) or childbirth (Papeles Privados); from the first “Brazilian” pop collages, to the more intimate collages of current times (Wallpapers, 2015), passing through installations about migration, a quote of Millet’s Ofelia (El agua de la Muerte, 2007) and nostalgic photographical interventions about the desire for the sea (Antofagasta, 2004); from the nudes that investigate changes caused by pregnancy (La Virgen de la leche) and the oil paintings that capture memories from her father’s house (Registro del olvido, 2013), to landscapes that Erika sews in her peaceful workshop in La Paz, through the ancient feminine gesture of sewing.

All her work considers, no more and no less that the representation of the path of existence in itself. Or at least a part of it. In other words: part of it. Erika’s, undoubtedly, but also everybody’s. A route that, as it has been mentioned, the Bolivian artist has reflected for twenty years in each one of her constructions, in spite of the technique or themes chosen, to end up defining a multi-form sum of her stories.

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