MONICA CHAVARRIA MALIN
RESIDES: TEANECK | FROM: MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA WORKS IN: ACRYLICS | @MONICACHAVARRIAART
HOW DID THE PLACE WHERE YOU GREW UP AFFECT YOUR ART?
I grew up in Medellin, Colombia. Medellin is famous for its flowers and vegetation. My brother, sisters and I played in my grandfather’s backyard, which was full of colorful fruit trees, plants and flowers. I learned to love nature at an early age.
These experiences had a big impact on my art, which has mostly focused on nature.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER ARTISTS IN THE FAMILY YOU GREW UP IN?
No one in my family was an artist. However, my mom believed in my love for art since I was two years old. I used to paint the walls of my house with dirt and water; my mom gave me a special spot in the house to make my “drawings.”
WHEN DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU WANTED TO MAKE ART PROFESSIONALLY?
When I talk about art, I cannot separate it from my teaching experience. I always wanted to teach art because art is magical.
Since my elementary school, I created groups of students where I “taught” them to draw. I felt that I had the power to show a positive side of the world through making art and sharing my knowledge about it.
IF THERE’S A COMMON THEME TO YOUR WORK, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Many people have called me The Tree Lady. I paint surrealistic trees that take on human form. Are they trees or are they people? They are both. Often, I add meaningful words as part of the scene. My paintings show a festival of trees in which human feelings are reflected through their branches, which become arms that touch and caress each other. The imagination and the philosophy of love are reflected in the faces and bodies, creating a fantasy space, a spiritual dance of love between soul mates. My paintings invite the viewer to appreciate nature while seeing the connection between trees and people. Also, the natural wood frames made of tree bark incorporate a real element of nature, and become an extension of the painting.
WHAT DEVELOPMENT IN YOUR CAREER OR PARTICULAR WORK OF ART ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
I have had the opportunity to take on leadership roles in the art community. I am the art director for Club Colombia USA of Hackensack, and I am also the president of the Hackensack Art Club. During the pandemic, it has been challenging for artists to continue to participate in the arts. I am proud to say that the Hackensack Art Club has used technology to evolve during this time. We have been conducting our meetings online, and we have already celebrated two art shows this way.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE BERGEN ART SCENE?
There are several local institutions that are giving artists fantastic opportunities. Especially in Hackensack, there is a big push to incorporate the arts into the great commercial growth that is occurring in town.