This month, we caught up with rising artist and good friend Anoushka "Nush" Mirchandani to chat about reinventing her career, self-discovery as expression, community, and Note to Self, her first solo show!
Before we dive in, big thanks to Nush for taking the time to engage so thoughtfully in this interview. After months of working toward her solo exhibit at Glass Rice in San Francisco, her opening night of Note to Self was a stunning reminder of emotion, self-reflection, and vibrance.
As one of the only in-person social events we've attended in 2020, it sparked creative energy and much-needed connection to community.
How long ago did you start making art?
As early as second grade, I can remember doodling all over my school books. I was never the "funny friend" or the "friend with all the A's." Instead I was the "creative friend."
However, growing up in India, with it's indoctrinated cultural preconceptions, I never imagined art could ever be a viable career option. As a result, I joined the corporate workforce in San Francisco, working at multiple tech start-ups before finally finding the courage to follow my passion.
Image by Hillary Jeanne
How has intuition or emotion influenced your work?
Both intuition and emotion play a critical role in the development, creation and completion of all my work.
My latest collection, Note to Self, is an intimate and raw collection, a vulnerable expression of myself - a visual diary of sorts chronicling my journey of self-discovery as an immigrant woman in the US.
It comprises a series of abstract and figurative artworks that evoke emotions of nostalgia, longing, celebration, reflection etc. Although the body of work very much reflects my internal narrative, my hope is that it resonates with people viewing the work, in their own cultural contexts and the emotions they encounter on their respective paths of finding theirselves.
How have your friends showed up for you and helped you on the path to becoming a rising artist?
My friends have been a tremendous source of inspiration and support over the last few years!
Support comes in so many forms -- so many friends have been wonderful sounding boards for my ideas, live models for many paintings, provided affirmation and encouragement, shared my work within their own individual communities and motivated me to keep pushing on despite encountering failures.
Specifically leading up to my current solo show, I was extremely isolated for 5 months, where I was working 10-15 hours a day on my work forgetting to eat, or maintain any form of balance. During this time, I was completely self-involved, and I was amazed by friends that came through for me during this time, without any expectations.
Some friends set up shop in my art studio and worked on their computers alongside me to keep me company, some dropped off home-made lunches and dinners to ensure I was eating, and some provided much needed emotional and moral support as I worked myself relentlessly to the bone. I AM SO THANKFUL FOR THE AMAZING PEOPLE IN MY LIFE!
Was there anyone you admired who had a big impact on your style?
So many! Henri Matisse, Helen Frankenthaler, Alice Neel..
Feminine figures and influence seems to have a consistent presence in your work. What do you think it is that draws you to the female form?
Most of the subjects portrayed in my figurative work are women, and again this is very much a reflection of my personal journey as an immigrant woman on a path of self-discovery in the United States.
I initially painted predominantly, nude figurative women to repair the relationship I had with my own body, which one was of discomfort and fear instilled in me by a patriarchal, and outdated society that shames women for showing “too much skin.”
My latest collection that was just revealed in my debut solo digs even deeper to reflect on the individual journeys of women in all aspects -- her emotions, her body, her experiences, and her mindscape as she navigates the world.
In the same vein, my abstract artworks are a deep dive into the microcosm of these emotions, once the physicality of the body drops away.
Do you have a ritual that helps you get into flow or prep for a creative session? What does that look like?
Mornings are super sacred for me! Early morning tunes Bon Iver or Gillian Welch usually, followed by a very special milk oolong tea, along with journaling on my garden deck and my fluffy cat Rico beside me.
My Journaling is a very beneficial practice for me. It allows me to declutter my mind, and create space for the rest of my day.
Image by Hillary Jeanne
Tell us about your recent show, Note to Self at Glass Rice here in SF. How did it feel nearly selling out on your opening day!? How do you think about creating & showing art now, during COVID? Do you think people are craving it?
I have been beyond amazed and touched by the response to my debut solo show, that opened on August 29th at Glass Rice in SF. I received so many flowers, I felt like a broadway star! Mostly though, I was so grateful and appreciative of all the wonderful people that showed their support and resonated with my work!
I was working in such extreme isolation leading up my show, that so much of my work was created in silo without any feedback or validation from the outside world that by the time the collection was ready and installed in the gallery, I had no idea how people would react to it, and if they would connect with the work.
Note to Self is such an emotional body of work, there was such an outpouring of myself into each of the individual artworks so to have the reaction to the show be so welcoming and positive has been the perfect catharsis and culmination of this year thus far.
Image by Mitchell Jones
Image by Lauren Fennema
As an artist, you’re an entrepreneur too. How do you celebrate milestones in your work? Could be a big dinner with friends or slow day @ home- whatever comes to mind.
It honestly depends on the milestone! After an opening night for an art show, I usually celebrate with an impromptu dinner or drinks session with my friends, while I still have the adrenaline coursing through me.
However, the days following an opening reception for a new body of work are spent decompressing at home, in my hammock, reminding my body to slow down and get back into a sustainable rhythm.
Image by Hillary Jeanne
Tell us about travel and artist residencies- were those inspiring?
I was invited to three art residencies in 2019, and 2020 - each of them having a different format, and objective but all of them were profoundly transformational for me and my artwork.
Last fall I spent 5 weeks at the base of the Himalayas, at an experimental art residency called KYTA, and I have a detailed account of my experience here.
My other artist residency in 2019, was spent in Paros, Greece at The Aegean Idea Lab. This was an incredibly unique residency started by a former MIT engineer, focused on learning innovative machinery like 3D printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters etc.
At the Aegean Idea Lab, I was an inventor-in-residence and chose to focus my time on learning how to operate an ACRO Laser Cutter, and create innovative artworks after learning the software, and hardware.
Earlier this year (pre-pandemic), I spent some time in the Domincan Republic where I joined an organization called Global Coralition to contribute to building of a 14’ tall sculpture of Atabey, the Taino Mother Goddess as part of a coral restoration project. Once finished, the sculpture will be dropped into the ocean to help restore coral reefs and healthy marine habitats.
Working on a project that has such a direct environmental impact was incredibly inspiring.
What are you eyeing on Confidants right now?
So many goodies on Confidants! I’m loving all the stunning jewelry by Swim to the Moon, especially the Amura necklace, and the Isla bracelet. Of course given my tea obsession, I’m infatuated with The Qi Ritual Set -- Whole flowers tea! So romantic, and delicious.