An Inside Look Into Bella’s Wellfleet Artist Residency

We caught up with Bella Varela, one of our Wellfleet Artists-in-Residence this week to talk about her artistic practice. Bella is currently working on her MFA at University of Arizona and will be spending a few weeks this summer in Wellfleet. We spoke with her about her goals for the residency, what inspires her work, and and her long term aspirations.

What inspires your work?

My family inspires a lot of my work. My parents immigrated from Guatemala in the 80s and built a beautiful life together in Washington D.C. They pushed us to take advantage of the opportunities the city had to offer, even if it meant being uncomfortable or looking different from everyone else in the room. I experience every new landscape I explore with awe, discomfort and excitement. But like a lot of immigrant families, my family tends to hid our personal traumas from each other. Each dealing with our problems in solitude… my art gives me a space to explore these and work on opening up to my family and to my audience. This very global, awkward and sometimes lonely world my parents built for me is my inspiration.

How has being in an MFA program changed your artistic practice? What have you learned over the last year?

Reading, Research, Re-doing! The MFA program at the University of Arizona is an academically rigorous program where our professors push us to understand our work in a larger context. We read theory (very confused), teach undergrad classes and are challenged to explore various mediums. In my mind, we are training more than talented artists, we are training thoughtful and sensitive humans that want their work to create some sort of impact. Whether it be exploring identity, race, culture, ethnicity, economics, science, religion, war, immigration, math, sex or WHATEVER else we challenge ourselves to deeply understand where our work falls in the world and how to teach others to do the same.

How would you describe your artistic practice?

Spontaneous, disorganized, and playful…. But also low key organized, decisive and serious. My professor said I throw glitter up in the air and catch the good parts that trickle down into my hands. I have a serious problem following directions and really just like to f-around until I fully understand why things don’t work out and why they do. This can be an exhausting process, to tell the truth, but I’m trying to own it and be more confident about my process.
What are you looking forward to most about beginning your residency? Being in a new landscape that I make my own! I love Cape Cod, something about it feels so right even if isn’t a place you typically find a young Latina artist. White spaces need to challenge themselves to have more diversity. This creative dialogue is what people need to be doing to encourage a country that is less ignorant and evil. I’m always looking to shake shit up… and Cape Cod needs some shit shaking.

Is there anything new you are hoping to learn through your residency?

To take time to explore the landscape. I think artists can get really stuck in their studio space and not explore spaces and meet new people. I want to go to ponds, beaches, shopping, eat lobster… I want to learn to get lost and relax. I want to have a long and healthy life and career, that means learning to put my mental and physical health first.

Where do you see yourself in the next couple of years? Do you have any artistic goals that you are hoping to achieve?

I want a stable and good-paying job in an arts organization in a dope city (maybe New York, LA, Mexico City, Barcelona) where I can do some sort of creative directing. I also would love to continue doing my personal work and be in exhibitions/shows. I know that sounds like a lot, but I would love a financially stable job where I can take care of myself and my family. The broke artist life doesn’t really appeal to me anymore.