The Border Art Residency (BAR) has announced Arizona artist Bella Maria Varela as the 2021 Summer Artist-in-Residence. Her residency will last from June 1, 2021 to August 1, 2021.
Varela, who is based in Tucson, graduated in May from the University of Arizona School of Art, where she received a Master’s in photo video imaging. Varela was raised in Washington, D.C., and is the daughter of Guatemalan immigrants. Her work incorporates video, installation, and photography to explore the intersection of immigration, family, and gender identity in American history and popular culture.
“We are excited to welcome Bella to the BAR and the Borderland,” said Kate Feuille, President of the BAR’s Board of Directors. “Her work is about finding and altering found objects, assembling them with archival footage and thrifted objects, and creating new meanings and hybrid identities. Our region is a place of intersection, so I look forward to seeing how the Borderland will inspire the work Bella creates.”
Varela plans to spend her residency expanding her project @border_becky, which was recently exhibited at the University of Arizona Museum of Art. @border_becky is a photography series that combines performance with fleece blanket assemblages. The pieces she creates reflect her identity as a first-generation queer Guatemalan-American woman. She intends to include more of the Borderland in her work and to offer the community comedic relief during a time of high anxiety, anger, and sadness.
“It is an absolute privilege to be able to work on the border. I am excited to listen and learn from El Pasoans about their experiences in such an important city,” Bella said.
The BAR was established in 1997 by artists Willie Ray Parish and Becky Hendrick to provide artists a work environment free from their usual distractions and pressures. In 2020, the BAR relocated from its first home in La Union, N.M., to its new location at 801 N Piedras Street in the Five Points area of Central El Paso.
BAR, an affiliate of the El Paso Community Foundation, is currently raising funds to support an independent studio and apartment space. Go to the EPCF website to donate and the Border Art Residency website for more information about the organization.