One year ago artist Juliana Rodriguez left her home in Argentina in pursuit of a better place to work, live and exhibit her art. The search landed her family in North Carolina and a solo exhibition at downtown Bottega Gallery and Art Bar.
“Sadly, it was hard to live in Argentina,” Rodriguez tells. “There was a lot of delinquency in the streets, political corruption and unemployment, and there is a dead point about art in Argentina.”
Despite Rodriguez’s struggles in Argentina, the work she started there is far from austere. Her pieces are vibrant, even if disquieting.
Working in mixed media—primarily digitally altered photography—Rodriguez’s current project, “Revolver Dolls,” has been six years in the making. The collections features more than 500 Barbie dolls Rodriguez has collected in her lifetime.
“Dolls are a great source to explore infinite possibilities—playing with the idea of giving life to something lifeless,” she tells.
Rodriguez started collecting Barbie dolls when she was seven years old. “I wanted Barbie not for her perfect figure,” she elaborates. “I wanted her because she was, for me, the closest representation of an adult human being. It was fascinating playing with ‘an adult me’; it was the sensation, for a moment, to be in the shoes of God.”
A film-director-turned-visual-artist, Rodriguez started “Revolver Dolls” in 2010; though, her process has changed since the project’s inception. Initially, she scripted scenes, created original clothing and scenery, photographed and then color-corrected the images. These days Rodriguez works almost exclusively in the digital format, and layers in details over basic images of posed dolls.
“I think I moved from being a cinema director, playing to the likings of a visual artist, to being a visual artist, playing to a cinema director,” Rodriguez says. “The necessity to create an individual language for each of my works has become stronger with time.”
The Bottega exhibition opened April 16 and features a selection of 45 of Rodriguez’s works, all of which are limited-edition printed photographs on paper and canvas. “What I love about a large exhibition of work is the serial component,” she says. “The show at Bottega is a good example of the evolution of my process. There is a breaking point, and you can see it—even if you’re not familiar with my work.”
Rodriguez describes her works as surrealist and cites influences like René Magritte, Frida Kahlo, Francis Bacon, James Ensor, Herb Ritts, Irving Penn, Andy Warhol, and Al Columbia. “For the past two years—as my process has evolved—I have spent long days in front of the computer,” Rodriguez reports. “My musical influences have become even more important than visual influences.”
Some include Elliott Smith, Franz Ferdinand and Lana Del Rey. Rodriguez even pays tribute to the young vixen in “Private World” (2013- present).
“This particular series has taking me much more time than others before,” Rodriguez states. “I’m swimming a little bit more each time into digital creation, and the funny thing is I’m not using dolls almost at all anymore.”
Rodriguez is questioning the use of dolls as the subject matter future work. “They don’t have a life, but they will be standing here after my own death,” she muses. “It’s not difficult to see how much people are terrified in front of each one of my works, even with the most ‘soft’ ones. It happened to me in Argentina before moving to U.S. and is happening here still. Death and art are universal issues. Everything that I can portray about different subjects or aesthetic starts from there.”
Bottega will host a meet-the-artist event at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 25. For more information about Juliana Rodriguez and Revolver Dolls, visit www.revolverdolls.com.
Mixed-media photographs by Juliana Rodriguez
Meet the Artist
Bottega Gallery and Art Bar
122 Princess St.
Saturday, April 25, 6 p.m.