Bella Luna is a Chilean artist who came to Canada as a refugee from Argentina during the Pinochet Regime. Today she also considers herself a proud Canadian. She came at a time when the Canadian government, under pressure from activists and concerned citizens, allowed 3,000 Chileans to enter the country. Bella was a part of that group.
Her artistic works are interdisciplinary. Bella works in almost every medium imaginable. She paints, draws, creates sculpture, does printmaking, video, photography, digital imagery, text, performance art and installation works. Bella is the founder of the Dream Room Project.
Her works of art are magical and often affect people in an emotionally profound way. She is a prolific self taught artist. One who is driven to create.
Bella: My brain works that way. I have even given away beautiful furniture so I could make something myself. If I don’t have a commission, I do something in my home. I honestly want to make people feel happy. I get messages of thanks from all kinds of people who will check my page just to see what I created on any particular day. I need to keep making creative work. Art must be created and practiced every day, even in small doses.
On Social Justice
Bella: My own work is pretty political. I express religion, gender, and war through several ways. I especially love to do performance art. Nobody wants to talk about social justice. We don’t want to talk about religion, abortion, or same sex marriages, in our daily lives. With art we are able to bring up those conversations. “Now that we have your attention can we talk about this”. Nobody wants to talk about heavy subjects in everyday conversation. With art people’s guard can be put down a little.
I was brought up Catholic. My mother was a liberal and forward thinking person. She inspired me to get my message across through art. She invested a lot into my cultural and artistic education. I feel I owe a lot to this country and to this city (Bella resides and works in Winnipeg, Manitoba) and there is a lot of work to be done.
We are heading towards a tsunami of a lot of broken people if we don’t do something, because there is a crisis amongst our youth.
I was working as an outreach worker with homeless youth at the start of the pandemic. When I came home I saw the video of George Floyd being killed. Whether we acknowledge the devastation or not, we are affected by it. I am affected by it and I tell myself that I must keep working.
La Sala De Los Suenos or The Dream Room
Bella: My first dream room came about when my mother encouraged me to do artwork for a young person in our family who was going through a difficult time. Latino families come together in crisis. Everyone comes in and helps out. So my contribution was to paint something. It was my mother who encouraged me to do this for other kids as well.
Now I create artistic dream rooms for youth who don’t have access to the arts. The vulnerable, marginalized, recently diagnosed with a serious illness and struggling with trauma. I started my own charitable organization when I noticed a gap in how we treat children with acute and unrecognized trauma. I want to go where I am most needed. Where there isn’t a hint of art and start there.
The Manitoba Youth Centre asked me to do two rooms in the cells. One of the girls had such a profound reaction it made the guards cry. I realized I had done something here. This young person had not spoken in years and she spoke for the first time. She said she felt good to be in that room. It was considered a breakthrough.
Manitoba has the highest rate of apprehensions in our nation and there are as many group homes as there are traffic signs. They pretty much all look the same. Five years ago I began to quietly and prolifically create artistic rooms in group homes across my city. Most of them were created by employing guerrilla tactics. The idea had been rejected and the managers in these homes brought me in through the back door and very often risked their own employment because they believed, as I do, that these kids deserved more. Sometimes my murals are covering every wall in these group homes. The goal is to transform how we look at group homes and children in care. Make them look more reflective of a home, not an institution.
On Formal Art Training?
Bella: I originally certified as an auto mechanic and then went on to power engineering, because in my country, we did not see art as a way to make a living. An artist was considered a pest because they were creating art to deliver a political message. I always liked working with my hands, and skipped a couple of grades. I did not want to go into academia, so I chose auto mechanics.
I was always drawing. When other kids were getting their television taken away when they were grounded. I had my sketch book taken away and that was devastating.
Bella Fun Facts
On First Winter
Bella: We had thrown away all our summer clothes because we were told it was very cold in Winnipeg. In October I got on a bus wearing snow pants. The bus driver asked me what I was going to wear in January? I replied “What happens in January”? I found out the hard way.
Bella is also a Flamenco dancer. As a child she always got the peasant roles because she looked indigenous. She happens to be very good and danced for years. In Canada she got the lead roles because of her stereotypical “Spanish” look.
Bella: I know Hallmark movies are fluffy, predictable, cheesy with a happy ending. But sometimes after the day I’ve had and because the work I do can be heavy, I don’t need more reality.
On ART in general
Bella: Latin American artists in Central and South America, don’t always have the luxury to paint flowers and talk about break ups. To be a Latin American artist it is your responsibility to produce art that is socially responsible.
A lot of people do not realize how much the arts bring in when they talk about the economy. They don’t realize how art contributes to our society. I was really excited when the Prime Minister mentioned the arts in his pandemic briefs. I do see a shift. Maybe not as fast as we would like. But we do have recognition for the arts. We are seeing more diverse artists and finally artists are part of the conversation.
It is very refreshing to meet someone who dedicates their work to bring about positive change. Someone who creates art to uplift, inspire, question, challenge, and address current political and social issues. To find out more about Bella Luna you can go to:
Instagram Bella Luna (@luna_la_bella_artista)
Facebook : Bella Luna