Gloria Saldarriaga did not intend to collect brooms. It is in her apartment overlooking Medellín where her eclectic collections can be found. Cups and plates of remote origins, textiles made by her friends, an amazing art collection, and even a collection of brushes.
‘I did not intend to collect brooms, it is a collection that took a life of its own. Every time I travelled, I discovered different nuances, textures, and ways of making this very simple cleaning device that is shared by all cultures. Then I started reflecting on the metaphorical, ritual and historical aspect of brooms, how they are almost exclusively a feminine object, to the point that they became an excuse to travel and now I find them everywhere, or rather they find me!’
Saldarriaga has had many chapters in her illustrious life. She worked as a graphic designer, model, and collector, and has also worked a gallerist. In 2003, she and her late husband Juan Gallo founded Alcuadrado Gallery in Bogotá. This was not a regular gallery, but rather the beginning of a new way of looking at art in Colombia. They were the first to host performances in abandoned spaces and experiment with not having a permanent physical location. More importantly, Alcuadrado was the first gallery to embrace that powerful genre of artists capturing the memory of the post-conflict in Colombia: Oscar Muñoz, Miguel Angel Rojas, María Teresa Hincapié, María Elvira Escallón, Juan Fernando Herrán, François Bucher, and Jaime Ávila.
Saldarriaga defines herself as someone interested in the beauty found in daily life. ‘I find a spark in everything that surrounds me: art, fashion, food, and above all nature.’ She is also a well-known fashion icon in Colombia, where she promotes Latin American design and is a muse and mentor to many.
During the pandemic she has kept herself rather busy, collaborating with her friends from Alado Diseño and transforming some pieces from her wardrobe into a cozy blanket resembling, although the other way around, what Scarlett O´Hara did to her curtains in Gone with the Wind, making them into a beautiful dress. ‘The clothes we wear have the seal of our personal experiences, we bond with them and should not abandon them or the feelings they evoked. This collaboration is very meaningful in the context of the pandemic because the duo from Alado–Alejandro González and Andrés Restrepo (known for blending complex silhouettes and storytelling in their clothing designs)–created a quilted piece to wrap my loneliness and uncertainty in the beautiful memories of every piece of cloth that makes the quilt. The exercise provided a creative continuation, a texture for reflection and a piece of a meaningful time.’
For Gloria there no boundaries that separate art, fashion, and folklore. Everything is connected to aesthetics and holds different meanings. Fashion could be a trend for the day, art can be memorable and folk art, part of daily life. They all revolve in circles and can take on different meanings throughout time.
And as for her favourite Colombian textile? Saldarriaga suggests the sisal bag used to pack coffee beans for export: ‘It is simple and complex, the warp and weft are honest, it is biodegradable, it provides jobs, and has multiple uses apart from being beautiful.
Written by Marcella Echavarría.
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