We had the good fortune of connecting with Nicole Momaney and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nicole, how do you think about risk?
For me, risk is everything. Takings risks is how we expand out of the environmental and societal bubbles we are born into to find our true selves. It’s a process that starts out small, think childhood, when perhaps we simply opted to tread outside of the boundaries our parents set for us. When I was young I loved venturing out into the swampy woods behind my house, further than I’m sure my parents would have approved, or climbing trees higher than was safe. We had 2 huge pine trees in my front yard that were basically ladders. It was irresistible. I spent a good amount of time up there looking out over the neighborhood. The rewards were obvious to me and far outweighed the skinned knees, bug bites and muddy clothes. Taking risks is normalized for children and teens. At that age we are expected to push boundaries but at some point, when we reach society’s perception of adulthood, risk taking is frowned upon or avoided altogether in most instances. When progress stops people become stagnant. Physically, we are composed of about 60% water. When water sits it becomes a fetid breeding ground for generally unpleasant things-bacteria, mosquitoes etc. Taking risks is about movement, shaking things up, flowing into unknown places where we learn more about ourselves. In Western Esotericism the element of water is associated with the phrase “To dare”. Water is the unknown we must dive into, despite the danger, to seek the pearl of wisdom and is inherently tied to the concept of risk taking for me. My first big risk is the main reason I am sitting here today – I decided to go to art school. I did extremely well academically in high school. It was a small suburban school with only one (truly inspiring) art teacher. I didn’t even take elective art classes until my senior year but made the decision immediately it was what I wanted to do with my life because I found it so challenging. Looking back on this always amuses me. Yes, I always loved art as a kid but honestly most kids do! I don’t believe I was particularly gifted artistically, just determined. When I got to college I quickly realized I was way behind most of the other students. I mean, WAY behind. It was incredibly humbling and pushed me to work harder. That was the most important thing I learned in art school – how to work hard and stay focused despite feeling so far behind my peers/where I thought I should be. From there on out I’d say my entire life has been one risk after another in some ways. I moved from Boston to New York alone with only a few hundred dollars right after school, then here to LA (best art scene in the country in my opinion!) with no job and very little money. I could have had well paying full time work as a product designer but opted to remain a freelancer so I could maintain autonomy and prioritize my life how I wanted to. I’ve had periods of difficulty financially because of this decision but when I’m painting I wake up excited every single day to get to work. That matters more to me than anything. As far as free time, I love hiking and climbing mountains. I’ve been skydiving multiple times. I’ve put myself in positions over and over again where there’s a physical risk that requires assessment, rational decision making and maintaining composure if things go awry. These experiences have been very informative and go hand in hand with building confidence in continuing to take risks in all realms of my life well into my “very” adult years. Everything seems impossible until it’s possible and you never learn what’s possible without venturing outside the boundaries of what you already know physically, mentally and emotionally.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a painter and illustrator who does commission work such as portraits (human and pets), album covers, posters, t-shirt designs etc. I also sell prints of original work and have designed pins based on elements from my paintings. I’m always thinking of expanding into other areas. In the past I have printed scarves, leggings and bags and in the studio I currently have a stack of wooden keepsake boxes I am wood burning and painting that are in progress. My more personal work is allegorical. I use flora and fauna to create a symbolic world that weaves a story often speaking to myth (both personal and traditional), esoteric concepts or commenting on current times. My intention is to formulate a world someone attracted to nature can step into and explore. I’m not interested in being prescriptive about the meaning of my work though it is there if someone is interested. What is most important to me is that a person can look at it and connect to it emotionally in some manner or simply appreciate the beauty of elements juxtaposed together that normally would not be-creating a magical realism vibe. I found my way here by exploring the world and finding myself. Through all of the challenges I’ve experienced (and they have been numerous) I know I can always return to nature, where I feel most energized and grounded, to process. This has been true for me since childhood. I believe in connecting with the natural world we connect with the foundation of the tapestry we are all woven into. It is a place of healing and learning. It is a place where we can feel humbled by the beauty of a flower, by the scale of a mountain, by the brutality of a hawk swooping down on its prey or by the overwhelming power of an unexpected storm. Through this humbling it is possible to find our personal place in it all by simply recognizing and acknowledging the place of the things around us.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
An ideal LA itinerary from my perspective: Must do morning activities: 1. Early morning weekday hike in Griffith Park when you’re most likely to run into wildlife and less likely to run into other people followed by food at Trails 2. Brunch at Cacao in Eagle Rock (must have=huevos rancheros) 3. Bike ride along the LA River followed by sweet treat reward at Donut Friend 4. Brand Library and nearby trails 5. Coffee on my deck in Silverlake with mountain views Must do afternoon activities: 1. La Brea Tarpits 2. Huntington Botanical Gardens 3. Rose Bowl Flea Market 4. Descanso Gardens 5. Zuma Beach followed by lunch at Malibu Seafood and hopefully some dolphin sightings! 6. Walk around Hollywood Forever or Forest Lawn Cemetery 7. Universal Studios Must do night life activities: 1. Tiki Ti (probably every night hahaha) 2. Hike up Echo Mountain for sunset 3. Art opening at La Luz de Jesus, Thinkspace, Corey Helford 4. A lecture at Besant Lodge 5. Fancy cocktails at The Wolves or The Edison DTLA followed by street tacos 6. Low key drinks at HMS Bounty followed by some delicious Korean BBQ 7. Live music at Resident, Regent, The Echo or Teragram Ballroom 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?
My parents: for my determination to continue forward and to value the growth challenges provide me They have dealt with tons of wild curveballs in their lives. No matter what happens they both laugh about it and because of all they’ve been through they have a deep gratitude for when things are simple. Simplicity is truly underappreciated because it requires genuine humility, a trait that seems so at odds with the current social media world most of us must navigate and engage with in order to promote our work and make money to live. (*special shoutout here also to my sister who is a badass MMA practicing fraud investigator not to be messed with!) Jay Strongwater: for creative and professional mentorship I worked for Jay in NYC and remotely freelance for several years after I moved to LA. He is truly one of the most genuine, creative, generous people I have ever met and his aesthetic certainly informed and inspired me. Rachel Psuing of Sorceress and the Stone: for providing me with opportunities to expand and push myself into new areas Rachel invited me to vend at the annual event she started, the Bitchcraft Winter Faire, several years ago. This invitation resulted in me focusing in on and honing my personal brand every year, something I am not sure I would have done if it weren’t for this event. My second family who make up my current residence: for being a solid foundation of support, positivity and love The house I live in and where I also work includes my partner Michael who inspires me with his ability to be insanely good at every single thing he puts his mind to, my dear friend of over 20 years, Tara, who is the hardest working woman I’ve ever known and her partner Chad who could build you a house and cook you a 5 star meal in the kitchen when he’s done. I’m so grateful to be surrounded by these 3 special humans on a daily basis. Of course this wouldn’t be complete without a general recognition of all of the other artists out there, especially the LA scene, whose remarkable talent and dedication serve as an inspiration to me to continue to push my work and never grow complacent.
Artwork Photography: J6 Creative