Originally published in the Sep/Oct 2023 Bowest’ner. Interview and article by Logan Renaud and Teri Brown.
Danira Miralda and Edward Beltran are “Incipio Modo,” a Calgary based artist collective and this fall’s ARTS featured artist. We sat down with Danira and Edward for a beautiful conversation about public art, creating art in a partnership, and making a home in a new country.
Tell us about yourselves and your history with the neighborhood.
Danira: I was born in Mexico, but I came to Canada when I was a baby. We lived in Calgary for quite a few years, then in Ontario, and then back to Mexico which is where Edward and I met. I’m a sculptor. I can do modeling and have many different skills, but carving is my thing where I feel like I’m in my element.
Bowness just captured us. We love the nature around it — there are so many parks and a lot of natural places to enjoy. I’ve been here for 13 years.
Edward: For me, it’s been 11 years since I came from Mexico which is where I started my career. I have always been looking for a life in the arts, so I discovered my way into that. Life is unexpected in many ways, and one of those ways was meeting Dani and coming to Canada.
The change in culture was a big challenge for me at first. But now I find this place one of the most wonderful places in the world. Just a simple walk in Bowness shows me how much richness and beauty are in the people, the areas, the animals, and in everything.
Danira: Bowness has that “thing” you know? You can get lost in it.
Edward: And this is a great city to start something new that doesn’t exist yet. We can grow as artists and then have an impact here. We like to be close to people and learn about communities and the people that have come from different parts of the world. Then I ask, how can I integrate myself as an artist in the community?
So the community shapes you and then you get to create art that reflects and even shapes the community?
Danira: Exactly! We started out in Mexico City working on a public art project. We were in an old Japanese trolley adapted to be a sculpture studio. It was parked in front of a plaza there, and that was where we worked! We were part of the community there — there was a shoemaker, cafes, a gallery, and then us sculptors in the trolley. That gives us a sense of what shaped that community and how that community shaped us. That stayed in our mind and we had the desire to explore that further. And then we came here to Calgary and had the chance to make public art stemming from particular sites and particular communities.
Danira, you mentioned that sculpting is your element. Is that yours as well Edward?
Edward: For me modeling is like speaking, both mental and verbal. And I just grew up with that feeling. When I am nervous, I always carry a piece of plasticine to mold and help make me more sure.
“Incipio Modo” isn’t a person, it’s two people! How did you come to making art as a collective and what’s it like working in a partnership?
Danira: It happened in the trolley! Edward went to visit the trolley and found me there, and then we just started collaborating! First the idea or project comes about. We both go into our minds and we start to talk about it. Then if his idea pulls me in, I gravitate that way — but it’s always a back and forth until we find the best or most favorable idea.
Edward: We’re always looking at different elements and trying to take the best ones.
Danira: That’s what makes an idea strong — we’ve got to convince each other. The arguments have to be there, so you revise.
Edward: It’s very emotional too.
What does the name Incipio Modo mean?
Danira: We made up the phrase, but both of the words are Latin. It basically means, it all begins now, or everything stems from this point on. It’s trying to say that every moment is really an opportunity to start.
Edward: It’s about the constant present.
You mentioned your work on public sculptures. Are there any in Calgary that people might recognize?
Danira: We did the two giant spiders in Kensington, and another piece at Prairie Winds Park. We decided to create a seed pod because we saw that it was a gathering place for so many people who are new to Canada. Immigrating is kind of like planting — you’ve got faith [in the new life that you’re planting], and you do your best to water the seeds and place them in fertile ground.
Edward: It’s like planting your dreams and your intentions.
How do you stay tuned in and inspired as an artist?
Danira: A lot of what we do is simply feeling out loud. We go in and produce every day, so what keeps us going apart from discipline is just the act of connecting, and sometimes forcing yourself to connect. Even when you’re not happy or in the mood, that’s when you have to go in there and put those feelings toward making something.
Edward: I love hearing people’s stories and seeing other artwork. When I feel captivated myself, it blows my mind and it makes me want to participate in some way.
Danira: And then it’s being part of a community and asking what I can give to the community and how I can flow with it organically.
Edward: And then allowing the artwork to become a reflection of you.
Talk us through the art you have planned for Bowness!
Danira: When making public art for communities, we like to observe things like landmarks, physical features, architecture, even transportation. Then we try to intertwine those elements and create something.
We go for walks every day in Bowness, and as you know, you start to get to know the landscape. And as artists we’re always saying, “Oh, that log looks like a coyote!” Or “Look, lightning hit that log and it looks so beautiful inside!” So we saw all these dead logs around and thought, “couldn’t we carve them into something?” That idea turned into the plan of finding a huge log in Bowness someplace, having it transferred here to the BCA, then carving it in public to become a functional log that you can sit on.
And then we’ll have carving workshops that will go alongside. When you’ve got a material that you’re going to carve, it’s usually not the perfect block right? You’ve got to look at the material and look at the faults, otherwise it will crack and break. So you can’t just impose yourself. As an artist, you ask, “what do I see in this, and how do I release it?” It takes the material and the sculptor both listening to each other.