We had the good fortune of connecting with Chandrika Marla and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Chandrika, as a parent, what do you feel is the most meaningful thing you’ve done for them?
I chose to not be a selfless parent and made sure that I had time for my own work, my friends and my hobbies. My son realized that the world didn’t revolve around him, which helped him become independent, and respectful of other people’s needs. He’s 16 years old now and I’m proud of his empathetic nature, and his dedication to the people and projects that he cares about.

Please tell us more about your art.

I paint simple, rounded, abstract shapes that are based on a woman’s breasts and shoulders. The color combinations that I use are in-your-face bold, and the overall effect is extremely striking; minimal yet vibrant.
In a previous career I was a fashion designer, and I’m still exploring feminine shapes through these multilayered paintings.

We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about.

My paintings look deceptively simple, and even if you’re up close with them, it’s hard to figure out that there are multiple layers of paint, sometimes as many as 15. I enjoy this ambiguity, and making the viewer wonder how and why the surface feels so deep. I love the process that I’ve created, laying down bright colors in flat layers, one after another, producing a soft, stippled line separating two shapes. To me, these canvases are like people: They show the parts they’re comfortable sharing, while covering up whatever they decide isn’t worth displaying.

Right now I’m excited about exhibiting my work at a South Asian Literature and Art festival that’s coming up in October, at Montalvo Art Center.

Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges?

It’s been a very difficult path. I started working as a fashion designer in India, and then in Chicago. I turned to art in my late thirties after my son was born, and I’ve had to educate myself about the intricacies of the art world, and I’m primarily a self-taught artist.

It took me some years to realize that the art world relies on introductions and friendships to find shows to participate in, and to move ahead. For someone with social anxiety, who left India with two suitcases, it’s been a struggle to make those art-world connections without an art school network, or have access to friends and family to introduce me to the relevant people in the art world. This is still a challenge for me. I think it’s complete hogwash when people tell you to “just keep creating and they’ll find you.” Being a woman with brown skin has forced me to realize how much more effort I need to put in to be “found.”

I’ve learned to create a community of artists whose work I admire, and who have a good work ethic. These people inspire me and enable me to be the best version of myself. I also mentor younger artists to reach out a hand that wasn’t always there for me.

What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way?

Maintain your identity, create community, be generous, and create work that is distinct.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.

Monday – Visit the de Young Museum, then check out the bison at Golden Gate Park, and finally drive home via Lands End and Ocean Beach.

Tuesday – We would spend hours at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, then head to Ettan (Palo Alto) for dinner.

Wednesday – Beach day in Capitola, with coffee and board games at Mr. Toots Coffee house. I love the view of Capitola’s colorful houses from their balcony.
Thursday – Berkeley day! Explore the Berkeley campus, shop for funky clothes at Molly b on Fourth Street, get a haircut at Moonshadow Salon on Ashby Avenue.
Friday – Beach day in Santa Cruz, with a pie stop at The Buttery.
Saturday – Browse for rare books at B Street Books in San Mateo, then head to Gelataio in San Carlos for the best ever pistachio gelato.
Sunday – Head to the farmers market and make brunch at home. It was an exhausting week!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
That would be my friend Kasia. She’s encouraged me through thick and thin, always showing up for important events and dramatic calamities. She also built me the finest, hugest, storage rack for my paintings, which I have brought with me from Chicago to the Bay Area. After building it she confessed that the only thing she had built before was a birdhouse when she was 7 years old!

Website: https://chandrikamarla.com/

Instagram: @chandrika.marla

Image Credits
Darius Frye Tanvvi Agarrwal

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