This weekend I present to you Guatemala based artist, Sonia Muralles. Sonia is an acquaintance of the artist I featured last week, Elisa Guerra, and a native of Guatemala. Her path to eco-art is not unlike the paths others have taken. At a young age, Elisa learned there are many more surfaces you can paint on than just a blank canvas. She would paint on walls, tables and floors, as children are want to do. Old habits die hard – Elisa was painting on walls up until age nine or ten. And as an adult, she has only moved to other non-traditional surfaces. The difference now is she is applauded for her diverse choice in mediums, whereas at a young age she was scolded for her wall scrawls. The list of surfaces Sonia is using is long, yet it all started with one simple drawing on a discarded bottle she found on the ground. She picked it up, took it to her house, cleaned it, and she had a surface to paint on. From there she began to use more discarded bottles as well as oil paint, acrylic paint, brushes, paper, corks, cornstalk leaves, corn, beans, water, plants and earth. What is so wonderful about Sonia’s art is it is so tied into her Mayan culture and heritage. Six of Sonia’s works are painting of beautiful Nahuales. In Mayan culture, there are legends of human beings that have the power to transform either spiritually or physically into an animal form. She has plenty more to paint if she wants to make up the last 14 Naguales, but with how much Sonia talks about her enjoyment of recycling and creating art at the same time, this won’t be much of a problem. If you’re curious to see how the other bottles turn out, you can follow her artist page on Facebook. Four years ago, Sonia began to take art more seriously, studying it to truly develop her skills. The ideas and techniques began to flow, and in a short time of four years, she was able to start her own art studio. Sonia’s entrepreneurial spirit comes from within, but is also supported by her involvement with a program, which goes by the name “Mujeres Emprendedoras” or “Women Entrepreneurs.” The program is sponsored by Citi and has a vision to help women develop the ability to become business entrepreneurs, take risks and make decisions that benefit them both individually and communally. In Latin America, as in countries all over the world, women need to be able to have this type of entrepreneurial spirit and access to support if they are going to succeed. Americanprogress.org tells us that “In 2011, only 11 percent of capital investment funds went to women entrepreneurs – 89 percent of capital investment went to male entrepreneurs – despite the fact that 20 percent of top entrepreneurs were women.” Needless to say, I found it very exciting to stumble across this type of program in Guatemala. I would encourage any women in the U.S. reading this to strongly consider a program with goals including stimulating self-esteem, sense of belonging, and solidarity of women. For those of you who understand Spanish, Sonia is featured in a video for Mujeres Emprendedoras which can be found on vimeo. In the spirit of Sonia’s entrepreneurialism, she displays her bottles in a different commercial center every week. She enjoys the experience of showing people they can make something different with bottles, rather than disposing of them improperly and contaminating the earth. These public displays of Sonia’s art are a great way for her to show the amazing work she is creating. In addition, they are also unique venues for her to show others what is possible with eco-art. One other piece of artwork Sonia has created is a series of bottles. These stuck out in my mind as very decorative pieces that exhibit the fusion of color and culture so true to art from Guatemala. Aside from just making art, artists like Sonia are deeply embedded in the climate of eco-art. Understanding how artists are feeling not just about their own art, but the state of the art being created outside of their own studio can provide important insights into the local eco-movements and sentiment. So far, the artists I have spoken with share very similar feeling to Sonia. The general sentiment is “we aren’t quite there yet, but we can get there.” Sonia gets the sense people don’t really like recycling but thinks we can make a difference by showing different and interesting alternatives. She thinks this is already taking place, too. People are waking up and creating new alternatives to just discarding waste. This is a valuable and real contribution to the future of our world. As for improvements to the state of recycling, Sonia brings up a very interesting fact. She told me the world population is growing so fast people now produce enough trash in one day to fill the entire Empire State building. I don’t doubt Sonia here. The Empire State Building is referenced a lot in order to show the sheer size of how much trash we are collecting. Kab.org stated “The aluminum cans recycled in 2010, stacked one on top of the other, would be 1,454 times taller than the Empire State Building.” Kirksville.com claimed, “New York City alone throws out enough garbage each day to fill the Empire State Building.” Whatever the case may be, it’s unlikely any of these estimates are far off. We’re a trash producing society. Recyclable materials need to be taken and used as material for a new purpose. With the help of eco-artists, hopefully creativity can flourish and we can start to clean-up with art.
Recycling Artist Spotlight – Sonia Muralles
Guatemalan artist Sonia Muralles transforms bottles into beautiful pieces of art.