Berlin-based Donna Huanca makes sculptures, paintings, mixed-media installations, and video art in site-specific installations where performance art is sometimes made with live models in a combination of choreography, sound, and even scent. At the heart of her work is the exploration of the human body. This collaborative art between Huanca and her models is centered on painted and altered clothing where “Garments evoke bodies and carry their form and spirit.”
Huanca was born in Chicago to Bolivian immigrant parents and raised in Houston. She spent summers with her family in Bolivia and considered the ‘Alasitas’, a traditional Bolivian carnival, as her first encounter of a total artwork. This festival fused traditional Catholic and Andean cultures and was filled with sound, dance, and costumes that still inspire her.
She received her B.F.A. in 2004 from the University of Houston. In 2006, she studied in the summer program at the Skowhegn School of Painting & Sculpture and did residencies in New York, Berlin, and Mexico City. While she studied painting in school, she also experimented with collaged textiles and body painting.
Since 2012, Huanca has incorporated live women into her pieces. They are not ‘models’ in the traditional sense but active participants. Not passive they freely walk and interact with Huanca’s paintings and sculptures. These installations include abstract assemblages made from dyed and altered clothing; canvases marked with makeup; and objects recalling glass boxes and mirrors. The dominant color she uses is cobalt blue with added touches of white, yellow, orange, and lime green – the colors of the bird of paradise. One of her works is swathed in soothing shades of blue with sculptures that resemble folding screens with irregular cutouts.
Huanca had two major exhibitions in 2018 at Shanghai’s Yuz Museum and at Vienna’s Belvedere Museum, where live models walked around steel sculptures painted with the colors and patterns that matched the colors painted on their bodies. In 2019, she exhibited at Denmark’s Copenhagen Contemporary and at Los Angeles’s Marciano Art Foundation. Unfortunately the Marciano Foundation closed during her exhibition.
She was the recipient of DAAD Artist Grant and Fulbright scholarship. Her work is in the collections of New York’s Guggenheim Collection, Vienna’s Belvedere Museum, Rubell Family Collection in Miami, Sifang Art Museum in Nanjing, and Yuz Museum Shanghai.