#yycLCL September 2022

An image of Mariposita by Milena Vasquez
Mariposita | Photo: Milena Vasquez

#yycLCL September 2022

I’m a self-taught visual artist currently exploring the alternative photographic process called cyanotype, commonly known as blueprints. Cyanotypes helped botanists in the past to keep a record of botanical samples as if they were photographs. This process fascinates me because of my passion for photography and botanical art.

Plants and orchids are part of my family heritage as my dad was a famous botanist in Bolivia; my mom loved plants too and dedicated her life to her gardens. I grew up hiking in the Amazonian rainforest, searching for orchids and other wildflowers. To reconnect with this family heritage and find my own identity in Canada, I explore Alberta’s natural regions, searching for wildflowers and connection with the land and its people.

I photograph and create botanical artwork. I explore themes such as grief, loss and separation in my artwork. I make art as a way of therapy and meditation to connect with the community, my family, my emotions and my past.

For this piece, I used an old photograph my dad took of my mom when she was around 17. I found this photo in a box of old pictures while emptying her apartment in Bolivia after she passed away this past summer. In the image, she’s sitting at the edge of my dad’s parents’ pool. She and my dad were only dating then — they would eventually get married.

In the photo, she looks contemplative and happy. Who knows what she was thinking about, but I like to imagine that she knew then how happy her life would be. I would love to talk to that young girl and tell her about the life she would have, but only about the good things, not the separation and loss but the happiness and joy. I would like her to know she will be a fabulous mama; she will travel a lot, she will have four beautiful daughters, tons of grandkids, a gorgeous house, dozens of pets and wild animals, plants and many friends that would come and fill our home with laughs and tears.

When I came back to Canada after the funeral, I started working on my cyanotypes using some of her photos. I wanted to include the botanicals, the magical spaces and the levels as stages of her life.

My sisters and I call my mom Mariposita, which in English means butterfly. For us, she jumped from flower to flower and was often cheery and smiling, always wearing colourful clothes and jewelry.

Milena Vásquez is an artistic photographer, decorator and graphic designer based in Mohkínsstsisi/Calgary. She practices the art of photography and sketching as a means of meditation and therapy and her graphic design skills in developing advertising material to connect artists with the community. 

Follow her on Instagram and visit her website milenavasquez.com to learn more.

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