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Meet Bernardo Vallarino

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bernardo Vallarino.

Bernardo, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was raised in Bogotá Colombia from the ’80s till the mid-’90s and in 1995 my family and I migrated to the US. In 2004 I began my artistic career at Texas Christain University where I developed the focus of my work. For the past 15 years, I have been exploring themes related to human suffering, violence, abuse of power, politics, and hypocrisy. These are all part of a larger social commentary on how human life is treated as disposable; especially in times of armed conflicts. This unsavory artistic focus arose from my experiences of living in a war-torn country as well as in a country where citizens are blissfully disjointed from the death and social chaos their country creates on their behalf.

To address and discuss these topics, I have used my child-acquired appreciation for insects and/or entomology as a source of inspiration and metaphor. Insects provide me with an array of formal elements to borrow from like plurality, scale, anonymity, identification, etc. as well as a metaphor for the careless and apathetic vermin-like treatment in which some humans treat other humans. Ever since graduating from TCU, I have continued to make socially-minded artworks focused on the victims as well as a dedicated effort to bolster my network.

In 2016, I graduated with an MFA from Texas Woman’s University to continue to expand on those same efforts. Throughout all this time, thanks to my real estate career, I have been able to keep the message of my artwork honest and free from economic pressures. As a result, I have been fortunate to have shown artwork in several institutions ( regionally, nationally and internationally) as a solo artist or part of a juried or curated group. Currently, I continue to make artwork, a NALAC fellow, the coordinator of the Fort Worth Art Collective, board member of Art Room, and most recently, board member of Artes de la Rosa.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There have been several struggles, but all of them have yielded positive outcomes. In the beginning, I struggled with my artistic identity; I perceived myself as a “lesser” artists because my creations were not the sort of “pretty” that was meant to create a profit. Therefore, soon after graduating from TCU, I decided to change my approach and made a series of paintings that conformed (in my opinion) to those aesthetics. The result was ten colorful paintings focused on what I regard/ed as the hypocrisy of love.

In retrospect, those paintings were one of the ways I processed the emotional scars from my coming out experience, and at the same time, the artworks that directly influenced the way I now examine other social constructs and norms. Another, less glamorous, challenge was the collapse of the real estate market in 2008. Real estate had always been my economic lifeline and not being able to rely on it as I had before was unnerving. However, I realigned my priorities and begun rebuilding everything from the bottom up; relationships, networks, artistic goals, business strategies, education, etc. This process of reassessing and planning has had a slower upward trajectory but I can say with confidence that I have benefited quite well from it. There have been other struggles, but these two are the most formative as of yet.

Tell us more about your art.
I have been making sculptures and installations professionally for about 13 years. I believe that as an artist I have a calling, a responsibility, to bring forth questions about our behavior, especially how we behave towards one another. I find a lot of “interesting” content in the gap (hypocrisy) that exists between the rhetoric of human life “preciousness” and the actions taken by groups and individuals, especially in times of conflict. My works are meant to engage the audience visually but also morally and philosophically with the goal to pay tribute to the victims and bring awareness to their plight and their suffering.

In the past few years, I have been more mindful of how the content of my artwork fits within the context of our contemporary world. I make a point to research thoroughly the topics and create narratives that humanize the content by bringing attention to the individual. This drive for humanizing my work has guided me to help a minute fraction of the victims. I do so by creating parallel projects with each art series designed to donate time, marketing or art-sales profits to organizations who help victims of violence – I think my artwork would be hollow “words” without doing so. Whether by content or actions, I hope I can inspire others to do something good for those who may need help.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
As an artist who makes artworks with social-political content, I think that the most important quality is persistence. I see success in art through the same lens that I experience real estate. In real estate, compensation is obtained at the end of the transaction; a real estate agent must “prove” him/herself by solving all kinds of seen and unforeseen issues in order to get paid. Like a real estate agent, an artist who creates artworks with social-political commentary must persist and endure years of constant work and economic problem-solving in order to reach a profitable end.

From my perspective, those artists who are unable to keep up, lose faith in themselves and their work, or worse, they become victims of market pressures a begin making hallow aesthetic objects without meaning meant to massage the eyes or egos of buyers. This persistence also includes a loyal and earnest approach to a concept which requires a lot of research and analysis. In my case, this exploration includes recognizing the relevance and similitude of contemporary issues with history. There are other qualities that I think are “unique” to my artwork like empathy, patience and impartiality however persistence is the definitely the most relevant.

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