In this exclusive interview, artist Neena Buxani tells us how she finds inspiration all around her. For her, nature is full of endless beauty and possibilities. A self-taught artist, Neena discusses the value of spending hours working on your craft, the relationship between her work as a social worker and her art practice, and the influence she finds in her Indian culture.
Neena Buxani is an Indian-American artist who was raised on the border of Mexico in Brownsville, Texas. She currently resides in Austin, Texas with her husband and two boys. Neena’s educational and professional background is diverse. She has a B.S. in Advertising and Speech Communications and an M.S. in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin, as well as a Gemological Certification from GIA. She has worked as a substance abuse counselor, jewelry buyer, loan officer, jewelry store owner, and general manager for a hotel. Her multifaceted background and multicultural upbringing has helped to shape her vision as a self-taught artist.
Neena’s work has been featured in various publications such as Create! Magazine, all SHE makes Magazine, the Friend of the Artist Book, EASTside Magazine, the Bluehost Artist Spotlight, the KXAN Artist Spotlight, the Brown State of Mind Blog, and CandyFloss Magazine. Her paintings have been represented by Tommy Bahama Home, PxP Contemporary, Austin Art Garage, and Showfields. She has served as a curator for “Celebrations” in Texas State University and her work has been on display at Austin Bergstrom International Airport.
What initially brought you to art? What continues to compel you to create?
For as long as I can remember, I was called to create. I remember making drawings when I was little and hanging them all over my room. I feel an emptiness when I’m not doing something creative. In high school, my creative outlet was predominantly dance and when my first child was born, I took up baking. Painting was always there though. Although the time I dedicated to art varied from year to year, in 2014, I made it a priority. So now I get to paint all the time. I consider myself a very lucky person to be able to do what I love.
You have such an incredible skill when it comes to painting (especially your use of color!). Where did you gain this skill? Has painting always been your medium of choice?
Thank you so much! I started off by drawing when I was little, but I turned to painting when my mom introduced me to a teacher from Spain, who happened to be the father of one of their customers. I still remember buying my very first paints at Michael’s in a city one hour from my hometown. It was the most exciting experience! Ever since then, I preferred painting. There’s just something so relaxing about mixing the colors and blending them on the canvas. Painting allows for the possibility of varying the degrees of abstraction and layering the paint in different ways. That’s hard to top in my book.
I’ve taken some classes, but I’m primarily self-taught. Over the years, I’ve given myself the opportunity to experiment with different mediums, styles, and subject matters. Through experimentation and practice, you learn. I believe Malcolm Gladwell said in his book, the “Outliers“, “to become an expert it takes 10000 hours (or approximately 10 years) of deliberate practice.” Well, I haven’t hit 10,000 hours, but I’ve come close, and even when I do, there’s still so much further to go. I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with my skill level, because a person can always learn and become better.
Many of your paintings include flora, fauna, and landscapes. Can you talk a bit about your connection to nature and how it influences your art?
I just love to paint beautiful things. Mainly because I enjoy surrounding myself with things that lighten my mood. There’s really nothing that can top nature in that respect. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s even more beauty to discover in the details of every petal, every feather, ever tree. It just takes your breath away. It’s a subject matter that can be explored in so many different ways. The world is literally your oyster.
I absolutely love your “Sari” series. Can you tell me a bit about these particular paintings? Do you model them off of saris from your life?
Thank you! Yes, these paintings are created from photographs I took from layering Indian Saris and Garments from my closet. I wanted to celebrate the intricate embroidery and beautiful fabrics of the Indian Culture all while remembering the celebrations I might have worn these pieces to. I really enjoyed producing interesting compositions by positioning different pieces in a manner that highlighted the parts I loved most. Then, I had the opportunity to experiment with paints and mediums to recreate the textures and patterns found on these fabrics. I learned so much from the process.
Who or what inspires you the most? What do you do when you are in need of inspiration?
I would say that I get inspiration from nature, fashion, and art. When I go to galleries, museums, or see high fashion, I just can’t wait to go home and paint something. The same thing happens when I am surrounded by nature or receive a bouquet of flowers. There is so much beauty all around us that it’s almost impossible not to find inspiration. The possibilities are endless. To be honest, the hardest thing for me is narrowing down what to paint.
I understand that you have a background in social work. Does this experience feed into your art practice?
Yes, I have a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When I think of the relationship that social work has with my art, I think of the word “joy”. I create work so that people can experience joy when they see it. At least, that’s my goal. Life can be difficult, so sometimes we need to focus on something uplifting to get to a better place emotionally and spiritually. That’s what Social Workers do for people and that’s what I want my art to do as well.
How would you describe the art scene in Austin? What originally brought you there?
I’d say, it’s down to earth. There is of course the gallery scene, but people in Austin also like to experience art in artist studios and get to know the artists. This gives artists at different levels and backgrounds an opportunity to show and sell their work, which is a beautiful thing. I originally came to Austin to attend the University of Texas at Austin. Although I left for a couple years at some point, I decided to come back. It’s just a great place to live.