Spot Light

By Patricia B. Dwyer

Francisca Elena Orellana Polanka’s (you can call her “Fran”) art studio at The Spot is hoarder-style crammed with equipment for photography, screen-printing, painting, and, apparently, blood collecting.

The Chillean artist dabbles in many projects, the most conventional of which is her Oveja Negra (translating to “black sheep”) line of educational creations for children. She draws and screen-prints historical Latin American figures onto pillows and bags, and then prints educational tags (EduTags) with child-friendly information about each figure. Her gang of pillow pals includes inspirations like the legendary artist Frieda Kahlo; Mercedes Sosa, an Argentine singer known as La Negra; and Nobel Prize-winning Chilean Poet, Pablo Neruda.

“I want kids to play with them and to own their histories,” Polanka says. "[I want to] invite people to be part of Latin America for a little while, to learn from all these amazing characters and to learn about these resilient and beautiful countries, I want people to fall in love with our culture.”

When not reclaiming Latin American history through the dolls, Polanka sometimes tries to reclaim a degree of womanhood by taking pictures of women’s vulvas and painting with her own menstrual blood.

“I guess I’m an ‘I’ll do whatever I want’ kind of artist,” she says. “I don’t know, they both make sense to me, ‘cause they are both explorations of identity in different mediums and with a different target audience.”

From menstruation to child’s play, see the full range of Polanka’s work at