July 31 2023
Q&A with Marcela J Villaca - 2023 Pride Bike Artist


Mobi by Shaw Go is celebrating Vancouver Pride and the LGBTQAI2S+ community with the release of new Pride Bikes. There are 10 of these beautiful rainbow collage bikes – created by artist Marcela J Villaca.  #RideWithPride.

We spoke with Marcela J Villaca to learn more about what inspired this year's designs.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your art?

Hello there! I am Marcela, an immigrant settler from Brazil. I’ve lived on unceded Coast Salish lands for eight years and made art for twenty-eight. I was lucky to attend some alternative schools as a kid and have the opportunity to try many creative mediums at school. Drawing, painting, collaging, sculpting, writing, sewing, music, and dance were a part of my childhood day-to-day. Gradually, the skills I learned at school became my tools to make sense of the world. Of course, making sense of the world cuts right through my ever-shifting identities and sense of self. Being queer was not a ground-breaking realization I landed upon one day, but rather an aspect of myself that just started making more and more sense as I grew up and came into clear focus once I moved to Vancouver. I am so thankful to this place for that! And so much of what I love about being queer has nothing to do with dating: it’s the fact that we choose family, that we are intentional with our language, and that we are invested in growing alongside our communities, not beyond them. For me, that’s what Pride is all about. Not that kissing, dancing, and dressing up are any less important, of course :) I especially enjoy growing and being intentional with my chosen family when we are all looking cute and having a good time. 

Where do you draw your inspiration when creating art?

Inspiration comes from everywhere: people around me, the world at large, the food I eat, my dog, my garden, and the kids I work with. Each of these things can be so rewarding one day and extremely challenging the next day! Art is both how I cope with and celebrate all the ever-changing things in life. Sometimes the result is quite literal: I will paint bursts of joyful color when I feel joyful or draw confusing figures when I feel confused, but in the last few years, I have been pushing myself to express myself in new, less obvious ways. I have created some abstract works, focused more on texture, and have been letting go of the need for realism to, at times, create folk-ish illustrations instead. 

Why do you think public art matters?

Public art matters because it is the only way to make art truly accessible! I guess the internet could be the other way, but big tech and their algorithms kinda ruined that for us.

What was your thought process in selecting/creating this piece for the bike?

This collage is probably 10 years old! I made it while in high school when I was living away from home for the first time and starting to recognize my own queerness for the first time also. I named it “Maresia” which is a Portuguese word to describe what the air feels like when you spend time by the ocean. That salty, sticky air that is the blueprint of nostalgia to me. This piece felt like the right one for the bikes this pride month both because it is fun and colorful and because it comes from a younger me - and I believe that for lots of us, Pride is a chance to express all things our younger selves didn’t get to.

What is the main message of your work?

Now that’s a tricky question! For this piece, I’d say it is: YAY! As in, everything keeps changing, yay! Good or bad, we just keep evolving, YAY! Old magazines can be chopped into a million pieces and become new pieces of art, YAY!  

Where can members find your art online/offline?

You can follow me and see my creative process on Instagram at @marcelajvillaca. You can buy my art prints online on Etsy (also at marcelajvillaca) and in person at Slice of Life Studios, in East Van! I am at Slice for markets every so often too, and might have an art show coming up soon… To be announced on my page!

Tell us more about the design.

The design is quite simple: this was made from hundreds of little magazine pieces ripped from old National Geographics. Collaging without a particular image in mind is almost meditative, and I think this was the first time I did it. I’d just rip away, sort the pieces by color, and then glue them next to each other in whatever way felt intuitive. Not much was actually designed!