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Meet Somsara Rielly

Today we’d like to introduce you to Somsara Rielly.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I grew up in a pretty strange religious environment, one that repressed my natural creativity and substantially shaped my early years. I struggled a lot with knowing and expressing who I really was. I always took art classes wherever I could in school, and eventually made my way into graphic design and out of my repressive environment. I spent the first 15 years of my career immersed in the design world – both here in LA and in NYC for 4 years. I always made art privately and would keep journals/sketchbooks full of collage and mixed media work but I was too shy to show it publicly and wasn’t formally trained as an Artist with a capital A.

In 2009, five years after we had moved back to LA from NYC (I am truly a California girl, winter was rough!) the recession was happening and design work slowed. To keep myself creative, I started a 365 daily project of one collage a day for a year. My husband really encouraged me to start showing my work to other people and suggested I set up a blog where I would post daily. This kept me accountable to the project and turned out to be such a great experience. I got a lot of support and even a bit of press for the project which gave me some confidence to share and do more.

Wallspace Gallery in LA showed the entirety of the 365 project when it was finished, and that was really exciting for me. From there, I took some continuing education classes at Art Center and met such a wonderful group of artists. It really pushed me to explore the boundaries between design and art, and to not pigeonhole myself to be “just one thing” – you can be artistic in all your endeavors. I’ve embraced how the viewpoint of a designer can bleed into being an artist, and tried to make that a part of my point of view instead of keeping those things so separate, and it’s been liberating.

Please tell us about your art.
I primarily work in collage and mixed media using vintage and found material, paper and ephemera. I create everything by hand, nothing digitally. I make a point to stay away from my computer and just commune with all the random things I collect that speak to me and see what happens. There is a kind of magic that happens with the collage process, and sometimes it still surprises me (which is what I love about it.) I try not to plan too much ahead of time, I start sifting through all my images and suddenly an idea comes. Or I’ll read a phrase in a 1940s Woman’s Day magazine that sparks something, and then I start cutting, layering, painting – it just goes from there. I do also have a more formal process for a larger new project I’m working on that involves a series of smaller collaged cards I’ve made that inform larger pieces, but that project is still taking shape.

I do love classic California and Los Angeles, and being so immersed in it I think gives rise to a particular kind of intuition or aesthetic around the city. I am always pulling from the personal narrative as well as a lifelong collection of vintage books, magazines and anything from the 1940s – 60s, a lot of which I get from local flea markets and thrift stores. Much like the mid-century ideal much of my imagery references, rarely are things as they first appear. I would say I explore the familiar, re-contextualized. My pieces rarely mean just one thing and are very subject to the viewer’s interpretation.

The messaging is layered, and it’s often looking at women’s roles and how they have changed or exploring the larger internal world and how our minds work independently and collectively. I’ve had a dedicated daily meditation practice for many years and I’m fascinated with intuition, symbols, inner work, and how that affects our creativity and connection to something larger than ourselves. I want to make people look, and look again – draw them deeper into the images and to feel or see something new.

We often hear from artists that being an artist can be lonely. Any advice for those looking to connect with other artists?
That is true for sure. I definitely think going to gallery shows and supporting people you admire is a great way to meet other artists. I am a big believer in continuing education, and taking a class or workshop here or there is also a great way to hook up with other people who are like-minded – you can go to see art together since you already have that common interest. Obviously, social media is a good way to reach out, see what’s happening around you, and connect you with other artists.

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @somsara

Image Credit:
Diana Zalucky

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