Born in 1948 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Mara Alvares graduated in 1973 from the Instituto de Artes, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), in Porto Alegre, where she studied metal engraving with Iberê Camargo (1914–1994). From 1976 to 1978 Alvares was involved with the artists' group Nervo Óptico, which organized discussions and exhibitions that included Alvares's pieces and also produced a monthly poster featuring work by an artist who had been invited to contribute. With an average run of two thousand copies, the posters were circulated widely, thereby promoting the artists' production. Alvares contributed to the second poster in the series (1977) with a sequence of photographs documenting the performance Adansônia, in which she moved almost imperceptibly in an open landscape. The piece illustrates the artist's early exploration of the interactions of the body in photography and performance.
Between 1979 and 1982 Alvares and eight other women artists founded and directed the alternative cultural center Espaço N.O. in Porto Alegre, a place for art experimentation and exhibitions. In 1980 Alvares studied performance art and photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), where she participated in a performance directed by Carolee Schneemann (b. 1939). In 1991, after receiving a scholarship from the Brazilian government, Alvares returned to SAIC to complete her MFA in painting, a medium that has become central to her production. Back in Brazil in 1993, she became a professor of painting at UFRGS. Among the public collections with holdings of her work are the Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional in Rio de Janeiro and the Fundação Vera Chaves Barcellos in Porto Alegre. In 1984 she received the acquisition prize at the 7th Salão Nacional de Artes Plásticas, organized by the Fundação Nacional de Arte in Rio de Janeiro.
—Mariana von Hartenthal
1977 Nervo Óptico, Galeria Eucatexpo, Porto Alegre, Brazil
1987 Connection Project/Conexus, Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art, New York
2004 Mostra de Lançamento, Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Porto Alegre, Brazil
2008 Arte como questão: Anos 70, Fundação Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo
2015 Destino dos objetos | O artista como colecionador e as coleções da Fundação Vera Chaves Barcellos, Fundação Vera Chaves Barcellos, Porto Alegre, Brazil
Albani de Carvalho, Ana Maria. Espaço N.O., Nervo Óptico. Rio de Janeiro: Fundação Nacional de Arte, 2004.
Bulhões, Maria Amélia. Artes plásticas no Rio Grande do Sul: Pesquisas recentes. Porto Alegre, Brazil: Editora da Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, 1995.
Ferreira, Glória. Arte como questão: Anos 70. São Paulo: Instituto Tomie Ohtake, 2009.
Scarinci, Carlos. Nervo Óptico: Carlos Asp, Clovis Dariano, Mara Álvares, Telmo Lanes, Vera C. Barcellos. Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil: Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, 1978.