Juliana Rodriguez–from Buenos Aires, Argentina–is an extremely talented visual artist, living right here in Raleigh, NC! I stumbled upon her work while searching the #raleighartist on Instagram. I wanted to broaden my knowledge on artists in the area as I mainly only knew artists who were already friends of mine. The first thing that struck me about Juliana’s work was the clearly intended emotion and intellectual analysis that is put into it. She seamlessly translates her emotions and thoughts via artistic medium. Though Juliana mentioned to me that her English is far from perfect (isn’t everyone’s?), her work goes to show that art is universal. I am excited to be able to meet her in person soon! For all you Raleigh people, Juliana is having an exhibition this First Friday! I would highly suggest attending, unfortunately I will not be in town.
-Details of the exhibition
Revolver Dolls of Juliana Rodriguez at Lucky Tree Raleigh
Friday, May 6 at 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
3801 Hillsborough St, Raleigh, North Carolina 27607
Below are some of my favorite pieces she has done! As well as an interview with her.
How to Eat Ice Cream Without a Hand
The Day I Knew That he Was Dead
The Last Shadow Puppets Miracle Aligner
How long have you been a visual artist? What inspired you to become one?
Since I was born, I guess. I was 6 years old when in kindergarten, a little guy obsessed with me threw me stones because, in his own words “he was in love with me”. I became so terrified to go to the playground that I decided stay inside of class, isolated but protected for the walls. I didn’t know what to do alone in the classroom but rapidly, I found myself very interested in drawing. Very quickly there weren’t other things that I wanted to do. Actually I became so focus drawing that I forget completely about that little boy. He finally was kick out of the kindergarten and even he wasn’t outside bothering anymore. I lost complete interest in play with my other little friends, the only thing that I was interested was in drawing mermaids, unicorns and human beings with cat heads. The vision of the human beings at that time for me was half cats and half mermaids. Even the houses I draw have cat eyes. Everything unanimated was live on those drawing, actually more live than the real human beings portrayed there.
I clearly remember the face of my teachers that called frequently to my parents ask them if something was going wrong at home. And yes, everything was a living hell. My father was never a man; he was like an eternal child, a very evil one. He used to hit to me and my siblings frequently in front the indifference of my mother. The weekends especially he enjoy it isolate us (my sibling and I) in the bedroom. Again between walls needing killing time I learned to hide dolls behind my bed so I would be available to play with them when the time of being looked came.
And then was when my favoritism with dolls started. I started to do my first photo session with dolls at the age of 10. I did even films with my dolls like if they were actors. Years after I studied cinema direction and became a cinema director but collecting dolls was something pending after I stopped playing with Barbie dolls. They were my sacred corner, my life guard in my childhood and I always felt I was in debt with them somehow, like they were alive. I always felt the obligation to give them the life that I felt they gave to me at those painful times.
Finally, in the break of the filming of my first fictional movie, the main actor received a proposal of work and he needed to leave my movie at least for a time. He needed the money so in the meantime I decided filming a video clip with the technic of Chroma key. It was a very difficult filming, a terrible experience, too many problems to resolve. I had to do another casting in the middle of the shooting because one of the actors disappeared and I had to start filming everything again. I was an independent film marker so I was paying from my own pocket for everything, lights, catering, location, cameras, everything. It was very expensive and at the same time the result it wasn’t being what I was expecting. Finally in the last day of filming, I lived a situation with an actress where I said to myself: IT’S ENOUGH. I WILL NO FILMMING ANYMORE WITH ACTORS.
The final result of the video clip was good but it wasn’t what I was planning in the first place. Even though I continued experimenting with the Chroma key technic. One day I took one of my dolls and put it in front of the camera and that was when Revolver Dolls started like a new way to do cinema direction but replacing actors with dolls. A movie set reduced that allowed me to work completely for my own with a small budget or not budget at all and the most important: Not only the process it wouldn’t be a nightmare anymore, the final result it would it be the original in mind and even the final piece would it be sell it, so the time invested will be returning with money to afford continuing creating more. I found this project like a natural circle. So I guess it was the desperation of the necessity to escape from the pain I was suffering what inspired me in the beginning to become a visual artist. I always have been a very visual person with visual needs, it’s my form of expression but at the same time I see the art like a drug, in a good way. I think that more than every meaning, technic etc.; the responsibility of art, of an artist is elevate the receptor to another state of sense, like a sensation of heaven. Not pain but not stupidity. Something sacred in other level.
Do you work as an artist full time, or do you do other work on the side? If you do work as an artist full time, what motivated you to make that jump?
Yes and no. It depends on the period but lately I’m working full time, I feel like a slave of art haha. There are periods when I sold a lot of artworks and others periods when suddenly nothing. A big silence. Even with the feedback of the people happen the same. I see it constantly on Instagram clearly; it’s a space in constant movement. Everything goes so quick that an artwork that people saw 5 minutes before already became old and maybe you invest months working on that! So there is when the sensation of “slavery become”, when you need to be in constant production so people don’t lose interest on you. It’s a tricky thing because everything its ok with that until interferes with your own creative time and space. I see that like a challenge until I really feel it’s interfering with my own internal process or that I’m not receiving anything in return. Which is the point of having one million likes on a post if there is not even one comment below? I’m not even speaking about sales because I know there is another facts involved, but when you don’t receive any comment or any sales it turns very frustrated, even more when you start to have the feeling that people think is you obligation having them entertained. I give you a quick example of that. Recently one Instagram follower that charge a Revolver Dolls t-shirt that he never finally paid sent me a private message asking me when I will be doing an artwork about Prince. Can you believe it? He not only didn’t pay the t-shirt that he charged, he was almost demanding an artwork about Prince for free. I’m not a fan of Prince and definitely I will do an artwork of Prince if I would feel some faithfulness in return but I don’t feel it. So if people are not faithful with you I don’t think you be faithful with them.
I’ve been working lately in a few series of the singer Scott Weiland, he died in last December but he was my big idol when I was teenager until probably today. I truly admire him artistically. It was a process of grief that made me create those artworks. I was a David Bowie fan too and I felt in debt with him, I did only one artwork homage but I’m not feeling motivated to do more at the time because there are one million art tribute per day related to Bowie and not only I try to scape to the cliché but I always think before portray a beloved singer, what is the new vision or thing that I can contribute about this public figure? If it’s only do something for do it and only keep my Instagram updated, no, thank you, I will pass.
So, it’s hard to live off of art. I can’t do it yet. I work editing videos and reselling clothes to subsist. I invert all of my art sells on printing a framing my artworks. Fortunately I don’t need to put any more money of my pockets for printing or framing, at least for the moment, you never know. The uncertain future of being an artist has something magical that usually push me to work hardly for the certain thing that I don’t know if I will be available to do it forever.
Years ago I did a long documentary film and during three years I couldn’t do nothing of Revolver Dolls. I could do continuing exhibiting at art galleries but not produce any new material. It’s really keeping me full time can do what I do now. If tomorrow I need to come back to an office working 9 hours per day, I find very impossible to continue. So, the uncertain of being an artist, don’t have for granted nothing is what it keep me motivated and at the same time is like a primal necessity, like eat. You do it because is what you are, what define you. Sometimes people see like something without any value produce art. It’s like if you can’t measure your life in a concrete amount of money per day your life is worthless. They can’t understand that one can’t choose being an artist; It’s almost like a disease. A good one. A healthy one. I’m pretty sure that if I would not be an artist my life would be easier in indefinitely ways. It’s easier have a luxury car in the porch that sell an artwork. If there is about the “easiest way” being an artist definitely it’s not the way.
Are you originally from North Carolina? If not, where are you from? And why did you move here?
I’m from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I moved with my husband two years ago for a proposal job he received from a Company related to special effects (animation). The economy in Argentina is terrible, there is a big level of insecurity, a big percent of unemployment even for professional people, like lawyers, doctors, scientists so can you imagine for an artist? There are a few art galleries there but only for the friend of a friend. Not matter how good are you doing what you do, if you are not friend of a friend you are out. There is a big market in general in USA related to visual productions (cinema, TV) that definitely there isn’t exist in Argentina. So new work possibilities and a safer place to live bring us here.
Being an artist living in North Carolina, do you feel that your setting is a source of inspiration?
It’s strange. I really love living here. The nature around, the nicest people, the quiet. I love go to run after finish with “my artist work hours” and get lost listening music loud. It’s suppose to be the recreational moment but my mind continue working and I start to imagine images between I’m running, images that I work the day after at the computer. Definitely is a source of inspiration, I truly love the green grass and the flowers, the general environment. Between the colors, the music and the physical movement it forms like a kind of ritual that inspire to my creation. Even though I always feel like an outsider even when I was living in my own country. I think once below to the earth is treading not to the place where born. Now I feel I belong to here.
I’ve noticed that your creations seem to be culturally/socially motivated. What cultural/social issues do you find yourself most concerned with? And how do you feel that reflects in your work?
It’s true but since I started with Revolver Dolls in 2009 until today, the project change a lot not only aesthetically but thematic too. From an art more close to the photographic to an art more close to the digitally pictoric. Probably the reason is related to my change of approach, in the beginning I was a cinema director playing being a visual artist and now I’m a visual artist playing being a painter. That definitely modified the need of transforming the dolls to figures very far away from the doll image and closer to the representation of the human figure.
The series of Studies from my current serie “Private world” makes clear that even when the project it’s called “dolls” there is nothing about dolls there. I love mutating and try new things, it’s part of keeping me motivated. At the first Revolver Dolls’ period I was mainly concerned about hypocrisy, self-destruction and alienation. In that period I was working more like Barbie as an Icon two, playing with the doll like an iconic element itself, nowadays I don’t work with the Barbie as an icon, I work with the concept of the doll itself no matters the brand. The doll now became in the transporting of an idea not the idea itself.
On those days I was very influenced about my working days at the office. I was being a witness of how a man can be victim of a work in his desperation to belong to the high level of the Society. I saw them sell their souls, betray their colleagues, lost their life for a Company that very quickly it took the best from them it threw them to the street. The desperation of a man for power. The depersonification of the individuality was something that captures my attention those days and probably today too but I feel like now I’m more focus in thematics more specific of the medium where I work, the digital like an aesthetic and like a subject itself.
The concern about immortality of course, I continue working with the idea of unanimated subjects becoming living through art, called them Barbie dolls, digital characters or even dead musicians. The culture about death is something that concerns me very deeply. One of my big works called “Private world: Are the fallen the virtuous among U.S.?” was the artwork that took me almost one year of work (2015). There it’s not only the concern about culture death I’m talking about but it’s about idols becoming dead thought their participation in social media. Social media definitely become a current subject of my work. Working lately more with a social media like Instagram to show my work than an Art Gallery is inevitable that new concerns appears. I adapted the own format of my work to be better displayed digitally, from the rectangle to the square.