Digital Threads of Identity

April 9 – May 6

I am curious about the tension that stems from being Canadian born to Salvadoran parents and the consequential cultural juggling. I built a tentative relationship with both cultures as I grew up, but have always lacked full ownership of either. I reside in a liminal space between the two in which I feel like I am constantly faced with a varied – and often opposing – sets of values, beliefs, languages and social practices. I am either “too much” Latina or “too much” Canadian, meanwhile in other instances I’m not Latina enough or Canadian enough.

The repeated negations of my identity have resulted in feelings of displacement and has led to the formation of a hybrid identity. In this body of work I want to highlight how the liminal space between the real world and the digital world, just like the liminal space between two cultures, results in new realities and artifacts.

The question that I am attempting to answer is: How does dissolving distinction between digital and physical artworks relate to dissolving distinctions between two cultures?

I refashion and repurpose handmade paintings and collages into digital forms. My paintings are turned into patterns using Adobe Capture. The colours and imagery from my handmade work result in digital patterns that resemble weavings and textiles of Central America.

Every layer of the work depends on one another and aims to reform and improve with each cycle. I then examine these patterns for imagery and iconography that I can again refashion and repurpose into a finished work. Through the resulting media hybrids I attempt to gain a better understanding of the belief systems and life experiences that inform who I am.

Natalie Melara (she/her) is a multidisciplinary artist based in Mohkinstsis/Calgary, Canada. Her artwork involves cultural investigation, feelings of displacement, and the formation of a hybrid identity. Melara is the recipient of multiple awards including the New Zones Gallery of Contemporary Art Scholarship and the Joane Cardinal-Schubert Memorial scholarship, and has exhibited with the Art Gallery of Alberta, Contemporary Calgary and Stride Gallery. She has obtained technical training in fashion design (Olds College) and architectural design (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) which informs the curiosity, development and exploration of her practice. This spring she will be graduating from Alberta University of the Arts where she specialized in painting with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.  

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Calgary Foundation towards the Prairie Crocus Gallery programming.

Documentation by Han Sungpil.