It was a dreary and rainy Saturday, but the dreariness of the day instantly dissipated when I walked into the studio of painter Alexandra Arata. It is full of vibrant, lovely, colorful paintings. Her flowing, abstract style, creates a serene and peaceful mood. It’s a busy space, as she is working on several paintings at once. Even on a cloudy day, it’s still full of beautiful natural light. This is my favorite style of art, and she just became one of my favorite painters. I was happy to have a chance to spend time with her before her upcoming show at the Embassy of Argentina, here in D.C on December 12th.
When did you start painting?
I have always painted. I wanted to be a ballerina when I was 4 years old. I was born in Cordoba, Argentina and I lived there until I finished high school at 17 and then moved alone to Buenos Aries in order to dance. I devoted my time to dance and when I was almost 20 I went back to Cordoba and I studied business. My father pushed me to study something “practical,” to earn enough money to be independent. I always painted on the side, always, since I remember. For 20 years I focused on my business career. When I moved to the U.S. in 2002, I started my own company, because I also did a masters in Interior Architecture and Design, so you see the drawing, creative part was always there. I opened my own business, mostly I did projects to preserve historic properties, as well as design and construction. For me, this is also very, very creative as well, because you have to envision from something that doesn’t exist or it is a very poor house in very bad condition. I painted, but I was very involved with the kids, I was volunteering in the schools and working full-time hours on my business. So I couldn’t really paint professionally because I was super busy. Over the years I was enrolled at Glen Echo School of Art, at Corcoran School of Art, taking watercolor classes, sculpture classes. I was always taking classes in order to keep producing art. But there is a big difference in being an amateur for a hobby and trying to become a professional.
What’s the difference between being an amateur and being a professional artist?
For me being a professional means painting or creating art consistently. In order to do that, you have to set a schedule, otherwise, you don’t do it because you are so busy. So anything you want to do, you have to set up a block of time, to produce. In art, that means a lot of experimentation, in order to get your own voice in the art. So many times, you look at other artists, at other artworks, and you love them, but of course, you cannot copy that, so you have to get inspired. It took in my case, about a year of experimentation, throwing away things, or giving them away to my mother, she has a great collection! You feel like you are creating something that reflects your soul, reflects what you have inside you. It took me a year to find this out, then you have to produce your portfolio and you start applying for exhibitions, making connections, doing a lot of networking. This takes a lot of time, sending your portfolio and waiting to hear back.
What was your first exhibit?
In the U.S., it was Glen Echo. That’s why I have a special feeling for Glen Echo. I still have a picture, standing in front of the exhibit, with my three kids, who were very young at the time.
Tell me about your experience at the Corcoran, because that had a huge influence on you and your work.
I took classes there and I loved the environment there, it’s contagious. The passion for art, and the professionalism of the people going there; it is a serious place. It’s not a hobby, it’s for someone who is really serious about what they are doing.
(Click above to scroll through and enjoy a sample of Alexandra’s work.)
How do you work, produce your art?
I work in the studio in my home, with lots of natural light. I bring my computer and put music on and I dance, and I paint, and I dance. Your brain stops thinking about all the things you have to accomplish, all the things you have to do, your kids, etc. For some time, I am able to isolate from the outside world and just keep on working. It is intense work, people say “I’m so glad that now you are relaxing and painting.” It’s intense because you have to put a lot of passion for it, so when I feel this passion inside me, I’m not relaxed. I don’t relax in this “zen” zone. Not at all. Many people connect painting with being relaxed. For me, it is fire. So when I’m done I feel the satisfaction that I have created something I like, so then I can relax!
Do you try to find ways to integrate visual art with other types of media?
My friend is publishing a book of short stories, and I am doing the illustrations. She is from Argentina, she wrote two books. The stories are about sensuality. I’m going to provide my paintings to illustrate the book. My abstract painting will accompany each story. She is still in the process of editing the book, so I don’t know the timing exactly. It’s in Spanish for now, but she wants to translate it into English. So let’s see how it goes. I love to be part of the process. I love to integrate art. I would love to do more projects like that, with music, dance… And, there’s a surprise coming soon! I can’t talk about it yet, but soon.
What do you express in your art?
As an artist, you usually want to express something and for me, I am always looking for the joyful and happy part of our life. There are many artists they have a social message, they want to talk about social issues, human rights. For me, it is that I want to find or give a little bit of joy, happiness. There is a lot of research that talks about how colors and shapes have an influence in your life. You can have an emotional reaction in front of some kind of colors and shapes, so I have researched that. I took a class online about the science of happiness and there are many books talking about design and happiness, so I’m trying to incorporate that into my work. For me, it’s about that. I’m a very, very, positive person, I always see the glass half full. Always. And even if I have problems, it’s not like I hide my problems, but I always try to see what am I going to learn. When I create I am always thinking, I’m going to make someone smile with my painting. People write me and say “I love your colors! I want all your paintings!” Just that thought makes me happy. That’s the intention of the work I’m doing. If in any way you can inspire others to try and find joy in their lives, I think this is it. “Live Colorfully” is my motto. “Colorfully” means to live with passion, take risks, dance, love, and laugh.
So what’s next?
I have several exhibits coming up.
- Embassy of Argentina, D.C Dec 12 (tickets are available here)
- Punta del Este, Uruguay from Jan 4thto Jan 9th(EsteArte art fair)
- London, UK, February 22ndto 24th(Parallax Chelsea Art Fair)
- Argentina, July-August 2019 (dates to be determined)
Alexandra is an interior architect, designer, artist, and entrepreneur.
Her life is like her work, always evolving and continuously adding a new arista.
Alexandra holds a Masters in Interior Architecture and Design from Salamanca University, Spain. Born in Argentina, she moved to Washington, D.C., U.S.A in 2002, where she studied art at Glen Echo and Corcoran School of Art.
She participated in many art exhibitions locally and abroad, and her work is part of private collections in U.S., Spain, Argentina, Andorra, Germany, Uruguay. Also, one of her paintings hangs in a White House office.
“As an Interior Architect and Designer, I have always been captivated by the powerful impact that the ambiance we inhabit can have in our daily lives.
Color is a powerful tool that can be used to signal action, increase performance, influence mood, feelings and behaviors, and even to create several physiological reactions. Shapes also play an important role on our psyche. Geometric or organic, they can indicate structure, balance, strength, creativity and even help to strengthen a community.
My ultimate goal is to help people sense the space around them, and in a subtle way, make them feel complete and ultimately, happy”.
(Photo credits: Jonas Canales)