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Art & Life with Nazish Chunara

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nazish Chunara.

Nazish, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
The first time I painted was when I moved back to Los Angeles. I was twelve years old. My father died just two years prior. Grief was lingering; I wasn’t aware of it until I was 25. I was sitting in our living room, got my hands on 3×5″ index cards and a set of oil paints which I didn’t really know how to use. It was the first time I felt I’d practiced something that I could call my own. It was a personal act. I didn’t have to share it, or explain it, or create something “perfect.” I felt like I’d accomplished something honest, and for the first time – that I could enjoy.

In 2015, I applied for an artist residency that took place at Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, Colorado, where I met some of the coolest women. They ran Venison Magazine, what is now an inactive contemporary art magazine online. I wrote and edited for them for a few years, making great friends in the LA art scene, learning about contemporary art, how to look at it, experience it, and interact with other artists. Writing for the magazine encouraged me to look at my own work differently. It helped me push through barriers, experiment with various mediums, and really question the intentions with which I painted.

Much of my work explores what was, what is, and what could be. What is my past? I dissect this in my abstract watercolors by using Gujarati, a language native to my grandparents. What is, and what can be? A general sense of curiosity (impulse, really) led to taking a flight lesson at Santa Monica Flyers, and ever since, I’ve been sold on becoming a pilot. Transitioning from art to aeronautics, or rather, meshing the two, has been a difficult but fulfilling journey. Now I’m pursuing a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. This new direction is also depicted in my work; I use maps, destinations, aeronautical terms to explore what feels like my destiny.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
Recently, I’ve been making abstract paintings with watercolor, ink, pen, and pencil. Using language and geometry, I try to explore dimension, history, the future, sounds, and landscapes. Sometimes I paint in tiny, travel-sized sketchbooks, documenting mini adventures, and other times I use cold pressed watercolor paper. I cut them into various sizes and move from there. At times I take what’s in a sketchbook and paint a larger version of it later.

Not too long ago I experimented with GIF’s, using things people have said to me that were hurtful. Making art about it seemed to help me fathom the crudeness of certain personalities. Making art, from the beginning, seemed to be a way to grieve relationships and experiences. Other times, while making an installation called Dusk, I was trying to break through a block. And not soon after, using primary colors and black and white only, I mixed and painted a new color every day for a year which allowed me to practice art a little bit every day. I’ve created postcards, textile swatches, greeting cards, and more.

More recently, I’ve been exploring what makes me who I am. My DNA, current lifestyle, hopes, dreams, beliefs, fantasies. In most of my paintings, you’ll see a word, either in Gujarati or English, paired up with what I think that word looks or sounds or feels like.

Practicing art has become a way to understand, grieve, forgive, learn, and explore. It’s a valuable tool, and I believe it brings people together for the better, and voices ideas, feelings, stories and at times, makes certain concepts easier to grasp.

What responsibility, if any, do you think artists have to use their art to help alleviate problems faced by others? Has your art been affected by issues you’ve concerned about?
I don’t think artists are obligated to create art to alleviate problems faced by others; I believe that whether or not it’s intended – a piece of artwork will end up communicating information that has the chance to play that role if you allow it to. We have the opportunity to use almost any medium to create something, and there are so many channels to share it that I hardly believe any art created doesn’t affect someone. With that said, I think it is the artist’s responsibility to be honest with their work. It is part of the history we’re making.The role of artists hasn’t changed; instead, it’s become more apparent how invaluable their practices have become. Personal art, political art, therapeutic art – all of it documents the time we’re living in and we should to continue to support that.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My work can be seen at

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