HARNESSING THE PAST
There are a lot of sayings tied up in the idea of the past, and they almost all come down to the same principle, the same fundamental idea that is so universal we all instinctively understand it: there is something unattainably beautiful in the impossibility of capturing a time gone by; we can spend our whole lives chasing a moment, but once it has happened, once it’s become part of the past, we’re never going to be able to hold onto all that it was again. All that remains is the memory and a steady hope for the future.
For some people, that often painful call of nostalgia is too much to bear and they’d rather spend their time looking to the future; the past is the past, after all. For artist Nikki Caruana, however, who grew up among the ghosts and shadows in her family’s antique shop, that idea of nostalgia, and the juxtaposition that often comes with it, is the very thing that inspires her. Whether it’s a story or a moment from her childhood, or an image that recalls a day spent hiking with her own children, many of the landscapes and tableaus that she creates come from these moments and the nostalgia that causes it to stand out in her mind.
Take, for example, the series that Nikki painted with a background of blue and white Delft pottery. The pottery and its iconic design are significant to Nikki as they remind her of her grandmother who was from Holland. She now collects them, finding the process of buying plates and pottery in this pattern akin to giving herself back pieces of her grandmother. In one of these paintings in particular, Nikki chose to paint bananas, already beginning to brown with rot and age, in front of a plate with that blue and white design. To Nikki, this piece was engaging not just for the nostalgia of the plate, but the juxtaposition that was provided between an antique plate and a modern fruit, a timeless, iconic piece of craftmanship and bananas that were already showing their age and temporal nature.
Although art has always been a passion for Nikki, something that she enjoys doing and sharing with the world, it’s also not something that always comes easily. What many who don’t partake in the activity don’t realize is that painting is still work, and if you are not in the right mindset, if there is something going on in your life or environment that is dragging you down, painters block is something that is very real. To create something beautiful, you need to be in a headspace to feel free to create, and the fact is that this will not always be the case.
For Nikki, as she got older, and began having children and creating a family of her own, she found that she didn’t have the time to spare for being both a mother and a creator – so, her art took a backseat for about 10 years. When she was finally ready to come back, it is no wonder that she found herself anxious at the prospect, wondering to herself what if she had forgotten how to paint!
It is funny how often in life the things that we are most anxious about at the time, work out for the best – in this case, it was Nikki’s anxiety and concern over getting into painting that led her to abstract work, and ultimately discovering new parts of herself and her artwork.
Nikki confessed as we spoke that she had never been good at quieting her mind – even meditating just led her to thinking more. When she had painted in the past, she had always been very concerned with the final product, anxious to ensure that it came out “how it should”. Yet, when she tried abstract, something magical happened – her brain shut off, the concerns about the end product left her and she could focus on the process; she could really dive into just creating.
This discovery not only helped her find her way back to painting, but it also helped her grow as an artist, becoming freer with her brush strokes, and experimenting with different ways to blend and effect the paints.
If you love Nikki’s landscapes or portraits though, don’t worry, she does too. As it is what she started with in college, portraiture will always be special, particularly as portraits are a great means to share her work with others, adding a bit of beauty to the world, and experiencing other people’s joy. All of which Nikki enjoys to do with her work.
To see more of Nikki’s work, visit her Instagram, @artistnikkicaruana, and if you’re interested in a commission, you can message her there, or by email: email@example.com
Written by: Jillian Kent