Between Creativity and Migration: The Life Course of Artist and Refugee Bara Remec
The author analyzes the life of Bara Remec as an artist, teacher, refugee, mountaineer, philanthropist, woman. The well-known painter of the Slovenian diaspora lived in Ljubljana, studied in Zagreb, and found refuge in post-war Argentina. The biography of Bara Remec is based on many sources, among which we can find only a few interviews with the artist and ego-records of her contemporaries. In addition to the methodological challenges that the author faced when writing the portrait, the focus is on lesser-known data and focal points from the painter’s life, embedded in the migration, gender, and identity issues of the period in which she lived.
KEYWORDS: Bara Remec, Argentina, migration, artist, biography
Bara Remec was a Slovenian painter, illustrator, teacher, refugee, climber, and philanthropist. She was born in Ljubljana, studied in Zagreb, and left Ljubljana in 1945 as a refugee. Two years later, she settled in Argentina and started her life anew. In the 1950s, she began to discover the Argentinian South, especially its indigenous peoples. Later, her travels were extended to northern Argentina and neighboring Paraguay. Her paintings reflected the landscapes, people, and colors of these remote places.
After two successful decades in the Argentine art world, she stopped exhibiting outside the Slovenian community. The reasons for the withdrawal were manifold, economic, but also political and cultural. She died peacefully in her favorite place, San Carlos de Bariloche.
The biography is based on many sources, including the few interviews with the artist and ego-records of her contemporaries. In addition to the methodological challenges that the author faced when writing the portrait, the focus is on lesser-known data and focal points from the painter’s life, embedded in the gender and identity issues of the time in which she lived.
Bara Remec asserted herself in the predominantly male art world and reacted to it, but it would be problematic to call her a feminist. While she never publicly advocated women’s rights and equality, from the few mentions of the difficult situation of women in art, we can conclude that she was very aware of women’s problems. In the Slovenian community in Argentina, she was renowned as the best artist, although most people did not understand her art. She was respected for her modesty, perseverance, dedication to work, and often for her selfless and humanitarian actions. Perhaps precisely because of these qualities, she has not been criticized in the community for not taking on the traditional woman’s role as wife and mother.
Bara Remec was entirely devoted to art but never quite met the stereotype of a bohemian, liberal, daring artist. She never smoked or was promiscuous. Despite her youthful, rebellious, and spirited nature, she was modest, orderly; she was not a revolutionary in art (Mislej 1999). Neither was she grotesque or provocative in her motifs. She taught the nude, but it is not known that she ever exhibited nudes. Before she arrived in Argentina, there were no elements of folklore or popular culture in her works. The peculiarities and dimensions of the appropriation of indigenous cultural elements in her art would be worth exploring in more detail in the future.