Bolivian Story: Daniela Lorini

Posted on 08 March 2014

One day we visited the Christmas fair at the American school and discovered some unique, beautiful mirrors, paintings and coat hooks being sold by Daniela Lorini. She was there with her partner, Arnaud, selling her art works which stood out among the collection of crafts there. We started talking and before we left Dani asked for our contact details. At the time I thought she was just being polite but they were different. They remembered us and invited us over for dinner in the new year. We instantly connected.

I started hanging out at Dani’s place one day a week – sometimes helping with her art and other times simply chatting but always sharing about various topics together. Dani’s art is done with a pyrograph. She burns her organic designs onto wood, as she writes on her website “designs drawn by the fire” and then paints in bright oils. When I leave Bolivia I will hold this woman and those days together so dearly in my heart. I want to remember her big woolly jumpers, her dark hair swept across her face often being held back by her big red glasses, the long conversations about life, the shared lunches and of course, the creativity! She has been my closest friend here and I have treasured her authenticity and natural way of interacting. I’m going to miss her so much… I hope you enjoy this post about my gorgeous friend.

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What got you interested in art and how did your career start?

Since I was a kid I loved to paint – I was painting all the time, always different things. When I was in kindergarten I won a prize for one of my paintings and since then I never stopped painting. After school I studied architecture and when I was at university I really loved it because you can do whatever you want – your imagination flows! But when you get a job things are different, especially here in La Paz because construction people don’t care so much about design. They just care about being able to rent it out and that’s why we have all these ugly buildings here, because they are cheaper to build. Young architects can’t be creative. Jobs are hard to get here so people do what the big construction companies want.

So, after university I worked as an architect for 2 years, but I’ve never stopped painting. My last job in this period was in the municipality of La Paz and this was the worst job I have had in my life because I couldn’t be creative at all. I was working in the section of the municipality that evicted illegal residents from land that the council wanted back to use as a green area… which is ok because we don’t have many green areas in the city, but the hard part of the job was taking away people’s houses, even though they were illegal. It was really hard and sad. I couldn’t stay in that job… I stayed just 6 months.

After that I went to Argentina to do a maestría en desarrollo sustentable, Masters in Sustainable Development. I really liked this because I didn’t have to just think like an architect or an artist but I could also think about the environment. It wasn’t just construction or design – you think about lifestyle, your neighbours and how you impact their lives. You have to care about water, energy, recycling, animals… so it’s not so narrow thinking and ignoring the others. Normally everyone has a specialisation and they just focus on their own area and forget all the other things that they impact on. It’s like when you see a doctor and they just look at one issue in your body instead of treating you holistically – it’s the same with architecture. People will build a huge building, for example, but will not care if the neighbours now don’t have access to sun or a view. This is happening right here, in La Paz… even from my apartment, I have this huge building blocking my view and sun now.

While I was in Buenos Aires I started to design little objects because I really love designing and painting. I wanted to mix design and art so that’s why I started to design functional art objects for myself like furniture and homewares. For me, each object I design is also a piece of art because it is unique and I’m against replicating things – people are unique so each object should be unique for the person who buys it. That’s why I’ll never reproduce things like a factory. I also started and incorporated pyrography after I saw a small box with a pattern burnt into it and I thought ‘I can do that!’. It was a really different technique for me so I started to wood-burn the objects I designed. I didn’t have a wood-burner so I decided to start with a soldering iron – it was so difficult to burn the wood, but I loved it from the beginning.

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After 4 years making just objects and some furniture I realised that I wanted to make bigger things so I started making paintings, combining different techniques like pyrography, oils and engraving. Paintings are really my passion because I have a bigger surface to expand my imagination and you can combine more techniques and materials.

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What influences your work?

The thing that influences me most is nature – animals and plants. I feel very connected with nature. I think it is in perfect balance. That’s my highest inspiration. I use the patterns found in nature, its organic shapes, in all my work. Also, the connection between human beings and the environment is important to me. My strongest connection is with a wild animal who came into my life 14 years ago because human beings killed his mum. He’s still part of my life and is constantly teaching me, connecting with me and reminding me of what’s important because his situation is due to humans and their selfish, thoughtless actions. I love “Cubai” with all my heart and I’m very grateful to have the pleasure to have met such an extraordinary animal in my life!

My recent collective exhibition was called Yo Natura, Me Nature. My influence for that collection was the life in the ocean. I painted sea animals and plants from both the deep oceans and the shallow waters. I love to use bright colours because you have more contrast with the pyrography which is mostly brown and black. Also, I use engraving to create various levels in the surface of the wood, creating texture and movement in each piece of art. For example, laminaria is a painting you have at home that reminds us of the big algae of the ocean. I used bright yellow, orange, pyrography and also engraving. You really get a feeling of movement in this work. I wanted to paint this algae because I love their organic shapes, the way they move in harmony and how they hide and protect lots of small animals. I decided to paint these aquatic shapes because, well, in Bolivia we don’t have access to the ocean and this is a bizarre, unknown world for me that fills me with fascination. On one of my trips to France I spent time in Brittany with my partner’s family, who lives really close to the ocean. We spent a lot of time there – watching, snorkeling and observing aquatic life that for me was completely different and unknown. I felt like I was floating in the sky. The water was so clear you could see everything – crabs, small fish, starfish and the textures of the shells which are really amazing and full of shapes. These were also my inspiration because I try to focus carefully, paying a lot of attention to the small textures and details that are easy to miss.

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Since you feel so connected to the environment as your inspiration, how do you feel about all the environmental issues in the world?

I’m feeling really sad because many people don’t seem to care about nature, animals or plants. They seem to just care about themselves. They are selfish and just care about money, career, their comforts and having more material things. I think that we came after most of the animals and plants so we have to understand that nature is not our property even though human beings think it is and we can dispose of it. It’s not like that – we are part of nature, we are part of this world and we have to live in harmony with everything. I want my art to remind people of this. That’s why I paint mostly of nature and its patterns. Today, people are forgetting to live in harmony, being connected and close to nature. That’s why I really focus on these small textures and patterns in nature that most people ignore or don’t care about. Now society is more materialistic, even here in Bolivia in the big cities. People in the countryside are more connected than city people but even they are losing connection… I think most people in this society treat money as the meaning of life and that’s wrong.

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How does the situation and attitudes in Bolivia affect your career? Who buys your work?

To be an artist in Bolivia is really hard because people think that art is not a proper job, it’s like a hobby to them. Also, they are more preoccupied getting other things, rather than a piece of art. They prefer to have a big car or house for example. So for me, it’s really hard because 90% of the people who buy my work are foreigners. I think they appreciate the work that goes into a piece of art. They understand that being an artist is a real job and a way of expressing yourself and communicating ideas. Also, it’s true that most people in Bolivia don’t earn a lot of money so buying art is not a priority for them – they need to pay for food, rent, bills, etc. and any money left over isn’t for buying art. Generally, people here don’t know much about art because it’s not really part of schooling and university. There is are no History of Art degrees in Bolivia, for example. It’s difficult for all of the arts here, including music, dance, theatre and others. This makes it hard for people to understand and appreciate – they don’t understand that my technique is completely unique and different and that this should make my work more valuable. Most of the art work sold here is in the tourist area and represents stereotypical images of cholitas [the indigenous Aymara women who wear large skirts and bowler hats] and mountain scenes with llamas and so it’s hard for them to understand my art which is more abstract.

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I know you are also working hard on getting your grandfather’s chocolate factory up and running again… can you tell me a bit about it and why this project is important to you?

Yes, I have been working really hard in this factory. It was the chocolate factory of my grandfather and has been closed for more than 20 years. It was called Valach… maybe some people of the 70’s remember it because it was a very big factory indeed, but my grandfather didn’t like to work too much so the factory had to close.

My dad kept most of the chocolate machines for us because he knew that finding a good job in this moment could be hard and he was right, especially if you decide to be an artist. So, Arnaud and I started to work there one year ago, to improve our salaries. Arnaud was demolishing some of the walls and I was carrying the rubble. It helps us save a little bit of money because our budget was and is reduced.

It has now been over a year, we are still working there, now my siblings are in too and also some bricklayers and one of my best friends who knows more about construction. We would love to start producing good chocolate as soon as we can. We are thinking to use wild cacao because it’s more tasty, fragrant, strong and comes directly from the forest – it’s a very nice gift from nature that we want people to know more about. Our desire is to stay small. We don’t want a huge chocolate factory, like Nestle, which produces bad quality chocolate – we want to produce small quantities of good quality chocolate, incorporating art and creativity in each of them to have a different product.

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What are your dreams for the future?

I want to do artist residencies in other countries because this gives an opportunity to share my work with other artists, develop my portfolio, have more experiences and improve my technique and knowledge.

Another of my dreams is to show my work in different parts of Bolivia as well as in other countries. Bolivia is a really small country and the artist community is so small and closed that it is hard for me to break into that community. I want to travel to places where people appreciate my work more. Including Bolivia in the international art community is another way to discuss issues in the world. Of course issues are addressed through politics, academia and more but art is also a way to communicate, discuss, evoke emotions and make statements about the world we live in. For example, here in Bolivia we still have many areas of wilderness but in places like France they don’t have so much wilderness so why not use art to also communicate this?

I have lots of dreams! I also want to live on a farm because there is not so much inspiration in a big city for me. Living on a farm in the countryside will connect me even more with nature, giving me more peace and inspiration for my art.

I want to travel a lot because you can meet beautiful, different people and have more experiences of life. But for a Bolivian, it’s really hard to travel because we are not accepted in most countries – we need visas and everything is more complicated and expensive for us. There’s not so much exchange between Bolivians and the rest of the world.

At the moment I have a problem because I was accepted for a residency in France but I don’t have the funds to go there. It’s really hard to find funds. So, I need to find a way to get the money to get to France. I’m thinking about crowd funding and other ways that you and Jean have suggested to me. I might also approach the embassies here and the art foundation of the Central Bank of Bolivia. The reason this residency is so exciting to me is because I can work on one of my projects which is about empathy. I want to explore the empathy between human beings, nature, animals and plants to talk about how we are losing these important connections. All my art projects are related to nature so I want to show this loss of empathy that is resulting in killing our planet. I want people to open their eyes and realise that if we don’t change our attitude we will kill our planet and have nothing left. Animals are becoming extinct, we are contaminating our water, climate change is worse every day… if we don’t change our way of life we we are going to kill everything. This is always the relationship I want to show in my work. Society is losing connection, even with other human beings… everything is ME, ME, ME… and so the question can be… when was the last time you felt empathy for someone or something? Can you feel the same thing that our environment, our plants and our animals are feeling?

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I am happy because I believe that if you are a good person in your life, doing good things, I think good things can come to you… like Carly and Jean came to me! hehehe…

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1 Response to Bolivian Story: Daniela Lorini

  • […] Bolivian artist and dear friend of mine, Daniela. You can read an interview I did with her here. […]

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