We had the good fortune of connecting with Sofia Echa and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sofia, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I was on a different path at first – I thought I was – when I was a student at a Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Russia, working hard on my degree in Japanese Studies. I have been drawing and painting since I can remember, but I was in my teens and didn’t see where I can go with that, so I chose a path of three of my family members and studied Japanese language and economics. I was positive that I’d go to Japan and become an interpreter or somebody else there, but something definitely felt off. I was not happy. When I was on a summer break I came to New York at the age of 18, I took a monthlong abstract painting course at a Guggenheim museum, and it opened my eyes to how free people are, how they think and speak, and I instantly knew where I had to be no matter what. I felt home. It changed my life completely and made it possible to get into an art school here in New York. I left my family and moved to the US. I have had the most fruitful years while studying here, meeting emerging artists from many different places, practising my skills, constantly learning, experimenting and challenging myself, and unlearning everything ‘unnecessary’ that turned out to be a block for me. I was lucky enough I started selling my artwork while being a student. It felt like the most natural decision to rent a studio space for myself after finishing my program. I am happy and grateful that I have my own studio space where I work now, and while I still take remote classes on Japanese poetry, art and history, I do use my background as a constant source of inspiration.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I am a full-time artist painting on metal sheets and large canvases. Working on metal sheets, I see my reflection in the unpainted areas through the abstract cloud-like strokes I make, and that helps me dive into my own thoughts and memories. The cool gray color I favor in both my works on metal and canvas provides an achromatic background allowing me to begin my paintings in an oasis of calm and neutrality. Also, my interest is not only what is on the front, but is also what is on the back: I attach stretchers on my works on metal so they have a shadow on the wall, and that adds sculptural qualities to my work. I paint with palette knives and other metal objects, and I love to play with the idea of metal being ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ at the same time. The idea of a hard edge on a hard surface or big bold canvases is ‘masculine’, but the way I apply paint is subtle, my strokes are soft, and this method to me is about sensuality and femininity but also about being strong. In this way, I challenge myself to use ‘strong’ materials but create a sensual impact by working in a delicate and subtle way. I am especially excited about the final stage of working on my painting, which is applying layers and layers of glossy varnish on top of my work. To me, that’s a sensual and sexual experience, I find my own source of energy there.
As for the life lessons, there were many. You have to be authentic. If you’re everything to everyone, you’re nothing to no one. The more you vibrate on your own frequency, the more of ‘your people’ you are going to reach. Do the inner work to know what you stand for. Also being ‘successfully’ creative is about having laser focus, because, at least in my case, all the small and random thoughts lead to inaction and apathy and drain me, and I lose energy. But to get a laser focus you have to really concentrate, that’s why I practice meditation to train my brain to stay focused on one thing and nothing else, and it’s not always easy, not gonna lie. If something isn’t giving me energy, it has to go. I’ve learned to say ‘No’ to many things because of that, I am still learning and will be learning until I start to exude my essence and be in the flow all the time.
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.
I would take them to The Noguchi Museum in Queens, created by the amazing sculptor Isamu Noguchi. It’s a beautiful small museum with a stone sculpture garden made by Noguchi. Then I’d take them to have some good coffee to Sey Coffee in Brooklyn. Then It would definitely be food!! I like so many things when it comes to food that it’s hard to come up with just a couple of names, so it would be up to them to give me directions. I’ve had the best cheesecake of my entire life at Peter Luger Steakhouse (that I found out later is made by S & S Cheesecake of the Bronx), so that would be an option for a desert. Kimika for some Japanese-Italian Fusion that tastes great and looks beautiful. Mari Vanna for some good old Russian cuisine. Pasta Louise in Park Slope for their mouthwatering homemade pasta. If it’s my girlfriend who is as big of a beauty junkie as me, we would definitely spend an hour or two choosing and buying new eyeshadows and pigments, that’s what we always do and what makes us happy (also motivated to create). But my favorite thing in the city is just getting lost, wandering around, taking pictures, discovering new small shops and galleries without a particular plan. It’s the best!
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?
I am grateful to everyone who has believed in me: my family, my friends. My heart is full of love to all of them. I want to give a shoutout to my mother who always supported me and believed in me, even though it was tough for her to let me go as I am the only child, and she raised me being a single mother. She always gave me everything she had even when things were hard. (I remember how beyond happy I was to spend my very first check from selling a painting on Chanel boots for her several years ago). I am also very grateful for all the resources that help me stay calm, balanced and focused, so shoutout to Three Jewels Center for their meditations with Hector Marcel, Saturday ‘Wokeshop’ on Zoom with Shaman Durek called ‘Healing Temple’, and online breathwork and sound bath sessions with LA-based Arlene Uribe.
Tutes, Kate Stamas, Kristina Safonova, Tatiana Ilina