Interview with Alejandra Olivera
By Carin Chea
Alejandra Olivera is the type of soul that could make an Eskimo feel at home in the driest, most desolate of deserts. Alejandra (or "Alex," as she is more commonly known) is a gleefully gentle spirit who has mastered the skill of making anyone and everyone around her feel at-home and comfortable.
Within minutes, I began regaling her with my insecurities, my awkward dating life, and everything in between. Perhaps it is her uncanny ability draw out the goodness in everything, or maybe it's her inviting aura. Whatever it is, it is no wonder that Ms. Olivera is a success at whatever she sets out to do.
You are a published author, painter, designer, traveler, cook, and Psychotherapist. Which came first, and how did the others evolve into existence?
I always say that my life is like a carousel. It turns, I go through stations, and it passes through the same areas. I just evolve. But, sometimes a couple of things remain contemporary and current. It's elliptical, like a planetary movement.
You are such a creative spirit. What inspires you?
There are certain types of atmospheres that I want to recreate. For example, in movies, like the Japanese movies - they are very atmospheric. With atmosphere, I just feel it. Like Sunday after the rain. I just feel it and I say, "I need to paint that." I carry the atmosphere with me. In a way, I feel like I am immersed in life, and life brings to me all types of inspirations.
Your novel, "Here Be Dragons," garnered wonderful reviews. Tell me about this story and the journey of how it came to be.
It started in Japan. I started feeling inspired there, and it just pulled me. I describe it as a "centrifuge". I kept moving and I couldn't stop it. I think every creative motion acts like that.
Like composers: They are taken by a movement and it just has to come out of them. In a hurricane you have that; it sucks you to the center. I think the creative process is more or less the same in everyone. You are in a different plane of reality. You forget to eat, you don't sleep. The creative energy feeds you and nourishes you.
I thoroughly enjoyed perusing your art gallery online. I noticed a strong Japanese influence. How did that come about?
I have no idea. [Laughing].
One of the things that called my attention is the way the Chinese see the seasons. In the ancient times, the calendar was ruled by the moons. You wouldn't have four seasons. That's a very generic way to describe the year. They have 24 seasons. They call it 24 Jieqi.
That is how I got inspired. They had many more but then reduced them to 24. This is also the old system in Japan. They are in harmony with nature. That series [24 Jieqi Series] is related to that. You have different periods within one season. I like to construct my life around that philosophy.
In your work as a clinician, you were able to therapeutically serve a very challenging population - those with Dissociative Identity Disorder. What was it about this specific clientele that drew you to them?
I studied in Argentina, where I was born. DID [Dissociative Identity Disorder] was always seen as a kind of fiction because people were entertained by it, like The Many Faces of Eve. People thought it was irrelevant and not real. Some of these people are diagnosed with Schizophrenia or Depression, and they're medicated accordingly. But you don't give DID patients medication; you have to work with them.
I really thought this needed to be researched more. I'd go to the mental hospitals and I'd talk to the staff, and they had no idea how to make that differentiation between DID and Schizophrenia.
As an artist, I know it's impossible to define this, but do you have a certain routine or ritual you subscribe to whenever you create something?
I feel so much stimulation from inside of me that stimulation from outside sometimes is more invasive. Like my husband. Right now he's watching football while watching the news while writing an email.
But, if you leave me on a mountain, I'll still be there in 3 months and maybe you'll see the atmosphere transformed. I would probably create a whole environment. I don't need much from the outside at this point. Before, when I started painting, yes - I would put on music. But, now I don't want to be distracted.
How has your practice as a Psychotherapist influenced your artistic life, and vice versa?
I think it influenced me, but on a subconscious level. I was able to understand what the characters in my books were going through because I know their symptoms. In my writing, the characters separate from the author immediately. They start inhabiting the pages.
Do you have any upcoming projects? Any gallery showings or novels in the works you'd like to talk about?
Yes, there is always something brewing. It's like feeling a little bit pregnant. You feel that something is there, but it's still early. Yet, still you know: Something is coming.
Where do you see yourself traveling next for inspiration and/or enjoyment?
I always want to be in Japan. We generally spend two and a half months in Japan every year. We stay in the same place in Kyoto, in a little house, on a street where there are geishas all around you, and temples.
It's a lot of fun because we know our way around and what we are looking for, so to me - it's always Japan. It's like going back home. It's the most comfortable motherland that I could ever dream of.
In all the healing fields that you are a part of, what is something you want to impart to those to come across you and your work?
When I was painting, I was thinking: "Why am I doing this?" I want to bring more love and peace into the world, if that is possible. I think there is one subject that is recurrent in every subject I do: I try to make available some type of vessel for others so that they can embark on a trip inside of themselves and discover that marvel.
As a therapist, I would never give you something that isn't there. But, I will try and make you see who you really are. Everyone has their answers. It's just not conscious yet.
There is a theme of "going back home." We spend our lives going outside, but at the end, all the roads come back to you. But before that, you have to clear the way. The highest way I can learn is to listen. I always realize that, as much as we are different, there is a universal element present that makes us one. We all search. We all love. And, we all need a place in the world.
You are at an ancient wishing well, and you have one penny to throw. Which "fortune" would you want your penny to land in?
My wish is always health, because when you have health, you have everything. Health for me, and the people I love. Then, you have the energy to face everything.
If someone were to photograph you (at random times) from birth to right now, and then present it at a gallery, what would this exhibit be called?
Innocence. That's how I perceive myself. I think innocence is one of the greatest gardens for creativity to plant its seeds. The possibilities to see the world are great if you have innocence.
Alex Olivera is a unique and brilliant soul. Through her work as a Psychotherapist, she has developed the ability to understand the depths of people's emotions and has translated that to her characters.
While reading Here Be Dragons, you will be taken on a journey of discovery that will transform you spiritually and emotionally.
To follow Ms. Olivera's work and journey, please visit her at: Alex Olivera's Website.
Her novel, Here Be Dragons, can be found here on Amazon.
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