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Violeta Parra’s Influence on the Arts

A textile by Parra

More than 40 years after taking her own life, beloved Chilean musician and visual artist Violeta Parra still influences the arts.

Violeta del Carmen Parra Sandoval (October 4, 1917– February 5, 1967) is best known for her influence on Nueva Canción (new song), a folk-inspired music movement that played a significant role in the social upheavals in Portugal, Spain and throughout Central and South America in the 1960s.

Now Parra is the subject of the Andrés Wood-directed film Violeta Went to Heaven, which portrays events from Parra’s life, including her family roots, upbringing and journey to becoming a national pop culture icon. Actress Francisca Gavilán depicts the artist’s inner-struggles and romantic woes that eventually led her to her death in 1967. The film is already a recipient of the high Chilean film award, the Pedro Sienna 2011 best fiction feature film, and will be screened at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

Parra is most often recognized for her music, but she also had success in the visual arts. In 1964, a collection her of oil paintings and wire sculptures were shown in The Louvre, making the “Mother of the Nueva Canción Chilena” the first Latin American artist to have a solo exhibit in the museum.

Some of Parra’s visual and musical pieces are now on display at La Moneda Cultural Center in Santiago. The folklorist’s music plays throughout the 22-piece exhibit, creating a more interactive visitor-experience. Ironically, Parra’s most well-known song is titled Gracias a la vida (Thanks to life)

By: Molly Dyal