Since the 1970s, Vera has been avidly active in the Porto Alegre cultural scene, being among the founders of Grupo Nervo Óptico (1976–1978) — together with Carlos Asp, Carlos Pasquetti, Clóvis Dariano, Mara Alvares and Telmo Lanes —, from Espaço N.O. (1979–1982) and also from the Galeria Obra Aberta (1999–2002). In 2005, she instituted a foundation dedicated to the diffusion, preservation and dissemination of contemporary art, which bears her name and which she has chaired ever since.
Vera Chaves Barcellos has a degree in Music from the then Instituto de Belas Artes de Porto Alegre, where she also attended the Plastic Arts course for two years. In the early 60s, she started to dedicate herself to engraving, where she started in institutions in the Netherlands and England. In the early 70s, she began to use photography in her work, and went from an aesthetic still linked to modernism to a more conceptual work. In 1975, she deepened her knowledge of graphic techniques and photography at Croydon College by being awarded a grant from the British Council. Many of her works aim to discuss the yields and limits of the photographic language itself, by manipulating with painting and using not only their own images, but appropriate ones from the media. From the end of the 1980s, she incorporated objects into photographic images, performing a series of installations since then.
The artist held numerous exhibitions in Brazil and abroad. In 1976 she joined the group of artists representing Brazil at the 37th Venice Biennale with the work Testarte. She participated in four São Paulo Biennials, at the 5th Mercosul Visual Arts Biennial (2005), in the exhibition “Anos 70 – Arte como Questão” (2007), at Instituto Tomie Ohtake, and in the exhibition “MAM na Oca” (2006) , as well as group exhibitions in Germany, Belgium, Korea, France, Netherlands, England, Japan, United States and Australia. In 2007, Cultural Santander de Porto Alegre made a retrospective of her career with the exhibition “O Grão da Imagem — A Journey through the Poetics of Vera Chaves Barcellos”, and, in 2009, “Imagens em Migração”, a comprehensive exhibition of her work is presented at MASP, in São Paulo. In 2017, she participates in the exhibition “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985”, inaugurated at the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), which was shown the following year at the Brooklyn Museum (New York) and at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo.