For Colombian digital artist, Marcela Bolívar, photographs aren’t mere moments in time, but opportunities for transformation. As a specialist in photomontage techniques, Bolívar uses multiple photographs as a foundation for a much larger vision that evokes a fervency of metamorphosis.
“I got into digital art after I got my first digital camera and scanner. I take several photos and combine them with painted textures and my own handmade props such as masks, plants, and accessories. I am inclined to dark and occult themes expressed through my own psyche. Nothing in particular led me to this inclination, this is how my mind translates everything I experience. I like to mix reality with completely imagined situations, so this kind of style suits that very well.”
Throughout Bolívar’s work, mythological figures exist suspended in the midst of change. Whether the transformation be a maenad in “Savage Temple,” or the nymph-like girl of “Buho” or the queen in “Leda,” Bolívar creates a state of transit using nature, and at rarer times the mechanical, to demonstrate the physical, mental, and emotional turbulence of transformation.
Even so, stages of transformation require secrecy; Bolívar’s subjects wear masks crafted from veils, skulls, or hair which obscure and sometimes break under the fear and exhilaration that change can bring. Transformational processes are difficult to endure and express, often creating vulnerability, sadness, rage, and loss that humans tend to hide beneath a cracking façade (Ronnberg, 778).
“My images are closely related to what is going on in my state of mind. Sometimes that is linked to situations, but mostly, it is linked to dreams, memories, and emotions. Right now, I’m in search of what is sacred to me in the modern world, and how the recollection of memories can help us to conceive our own personal symbols.”
For Queen Leda, the famous lead of the Greek myth “Leda and the Swan,” her transformation is twofold: assaulted and raped by the god Zeus, she enters an influx of change not just from the violence done against her, but also when she gives birth to four children—two naturally and two by egg—one among them Helen (Contterell, 59). Yes, that Helen of Troy. Symbols of treachery surround Bolívar’s Leda. Zeus wraps around her like a snake, and presents himself as a skull—a symbol intimate with death—even as she arches away, hiding behind her hair.
Maenads, followers of the Greek god Dionysus, are the ‘raving ones’ who exist in a state of frenzy and ecstasy. Dressed in deer skins and carrying a thyrsus, a wand or staff covered in ivy and leaves, these ‘mad women’ maintain a sense of joyful insanity through dance and drink, altering their state of mind and embracing the consequences, even if that change might be permanent and damaging.
“I am aware of different mythologies being influential in my work, but in the end, I try to portray my own symbolism. The masks and veils are not there to dilute the message about the vanity of identity or to just see the body as a vessel.”
Even so, the symbol of the mask indicates that the subject might not know they are in the state of flux until the change ends. At the same time, their true face remains a mystery, and we, as the viewer, are stuck wondering what might come out the other side, a feeling akin to staring in a mirror and wondering who you might become in five years, ten years, fifty years.
“Yes, the change represents death. Almost everything I do is losing its shape, its essence, or becoming something else. Colors play a role in this too.”
While developing her own projects, Bolívar also dedicates her time and imagination to craft book and album covers, using the author or musician’s vision to help her develop the ideal piece.
“It can be difficult if the author doesn’t have a clear image of what they want, but it is our work as designers to ask the right questions so we can guide them to a better result. Luckily, people who contact me have a good idea of what my style is about and I’ve had the pleasure to contribute to their ideas.”
Not only does Bolívar guide her clients, she also has a few words for artists, old and new.
“Try to make your ideas real with any medium or mixture of techniques possible. Look inside to find your own voice. Keep a sketchbook close to you.”
Cotterell, Arthur & Storm, Rachel. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of World: Mythology. New York: Metro Books, 2013. Print.
Ronnberg, Ami & Martin, Kathleen. The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images. Taschen America, LLC, 2010. Print.