So: what AM I doing, anyway?

"I'm a process painter, which means my paintings evolve without a set plan or narrative. I’m primarily focused on spatial relationships, as well as the resulting surface, color and experience—both my experience as the maker and the viewer's experience as the seer. I'm often working with dualities: hard vs. soft, fast vs. slow, calm vs. frenetic, and I’m interested in those interactions between materials and methods that naturally develop within my process.

Using painting and printmaking techniques, I interweave drawing and collage with a variety of media. Simultaneously painterly and constrained, my paintings are composed of complex layers, many of which are over-painted and concealed. A prominent element of my work is the application of thousands of beads of paint or intricate collage, painstakingly applied and used to create screens and patterns. My work is  best described as abstract painting with botanical and architectural references, as the pieces suggest natural forms (birds, leaves, branches), man made structures (buildings, windows, lights) and patterning both natural and designed (woven fabrics, strata of earth, pixels).

My works are emotional and imperfect, and as objects they embody my response to things mass produced and idealized. The paintings are collections of moments from daily life: combined glimpses, thoughts, memories and objects. By design I am trying to describe not only what things look like through the filter of my eyes, intellect and hands, but also how they might feel.”

Upcoming show: "New, New Mexico Abstraction" with Jamie Brunson at Turner Carroll Gallery, Santa Fe

Below is the first announcement for my upcoming two-person exhibition in Santa Fe--more to come!

New, New Mexico Abstraction

Jamie Brunson and Nina Tichava

August 23-September 12, 2017 • Opening Reception August 25th, 5-7pm

Nina Tichava was born in Vallecitos, NM, and was raised between rural Northern New Mexico and the Bay Area, California. Jamie Brunson, on the other hand, was born in Coronado, CA, and built her career in the Bay Area, only recently moving to Northern New Mexico. However, both artists are interested in time and place, and the influence of these concepts in their work is subtle yet undeniable.

Brunson's work ranges from paper collage to large format fields of vibrating color rendered in oil and alkyd smooth as glass. Veils of finespun hue suggest the distant landscape, the point on the horizon where hills and plateaus are indistinguishable from variable cloud strata. Simultaneously academic and transcendental, her work explores the complex fluidity of language and culture as well as her immediate personal experiences. In this way, her body of work is both intellectually and spiritually stimulating, conceptually structured and procedurally improvised, both broad and expansive as well as local and extant.

Tichava works primarily from a procedural stance. Her art is about relationship, and her focus is on the interplay of elements and materials. Her process is best described as weaving, as she combines painting and printmaking techniques, drawing and collage, in a fashion both liberated and constrained. Tichava works to capture the immediacy and ephemeral nature of subjective experience. Deep emotion and personality are captured in the expressive layers as if caught up in a net, and the viewer is invited in a way to sift through the complexity of each composition to meet the artist on an empathetic level.


I’m not exactly sure when I decided to be an abstract painter. There was a transition in art school that developed organically from working with the human figure; I began pushing the boundaries of that form and then moved past the figure to abstraction. I wasn’t really a choice per se, but more of a comfortable fit—a coming home perhaps. When I examine my early influences in Northern New Mexico, I can more clearly trace that move to abstraction: as a child I was surrounded by the weavings and beadwork of my parents, as well as the Native American artwork and the dominant aesthetic of Santa Fe rooted in Spanish and Native symbology, art and craft.

With that move to abstraction, however, I did make a choice in audience; by proceeding in a direction that was more focused on pattern, color and reference, a certain section of the population was immediately cut off from my work. It’s arguable that to be open to abstraction a person needs experience with it—whether that comes from looking at art, going to school, having a parent or peer who makes abstracted work or having that boundary from “real life” pushed or questioned. It’s not the easiest thing to embrace or understand without some context or exposure, and abstract art can be intimidating. Which brings me to politics and the environment:

In this most recent presidential election cycle--from the primaries through today’s evolving dramas—it has never been more evident that the people who make up our population are divided and under-exposed to each other; I’m no exception. As hard as it can be to understand abstracted artwork, it’s significantly more challenging to look at life through another person’s perspective and to have some idea of where they’ve been, what they’ve gone through, and who they “are”. Social and traditional media have combined to create an intensely polarized version of Americans as people and our values are as a nation. I don’t blindly accept that version, but instead recognize that there is a growing lack of context and exposure.

Additionally, environmental awareness must be pushed to the forefront—we need to be talking about it, valuing it. This project incorporates an underlying and unifying focus on environment, as climate change is verified and real, and our landscape is changing rapidly. Holding onto nostalgic ideas of the past or viewing the world through screens is creating a damaging separation between humans and our environment.

Borrowed Landscapes is a series of works that use our most common point of reference to explore shifts of perspective and communication. The series is metaphorical and intentionally straightforward, and is beginning with three parts:

  • Part one: beginning January 20, 2017 I began the daily practice of collaging and painting over vintage postcards of national landmarks, landscapes and cityscapes; for color postcards I am imposing a grid and painting a screen of individual dots in black, white and grays. For black and white cards I’m using colored paint. My goal is to produce 100 postcards by April 29, 2017.
  • Part two: I am seeking out found landscape artworks—photographs, books, prints, original paintings and imagery—and am imposing the same collage and painted grid; I am planning to travel to rural areas and “red states” specifically to find materials in thrift and antique stores. My first trip starts at the end of March 2017 and I’ll spend two weeks driving and camping through southern New Mexico and Texas.
  • Part three: I am currently in talks with other visual artists who use landscape as the primary subject of their work; I am proposing they allow me to use their original artwork as the source material over which I’ll paint. I will also be remaking select works with the permission of the original artist to explore perspective.

I developed Borrowed Landscapes with a sense of urgency, and beyond altering existing postcards and photographs my long-term plan is to incorporate regular travel to introduce ideas and invite experiences with people outside my daily experience. My true and heartfelt goal is to connect with others through my artwork, and to share not only the ideas and values I stand with, but also the way I choose to treat those around me in practice: with dignity, curiosity and kindness. It’s time for a new perspective.

Nina Tichava, March 2017