53: Moving through water: finding grace in each phase of life with painter Calida Garcia Rawles

Image above: Radiating My Sovereignty, 2019, acrylic on canvas 84”x 48″

I’m grateful that Calida Rawles squeezed me into her busy schedule, because it was really delightful to have her on the podcast! Calida Rawles is a photorealist painter based out of Los Angeles, California, whose work focuses on figures of African Americans abstracted through the ripples (or, as Calida describes it beautifully, the “lens”) of the water in which they are partially submerged. You may recognize her work from the cover of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ debut novel, The Water Dancer, but you have to try to see her work in person! The paintings’ larger-than-life scale envelops a viewer in the rhythm of the water. Calida unpacks her work as culturally, poetically, and personally symbolic, and provides us with potent metaphors to live by in the form of “breathing” and “floating”: we have to release tension to avoid sinking.

We talk about the importance of committed and supportive partnerships, framing children as motivations for instead of obstacles of a creative career, and setting realistic goals for yourself. Being both an artist/mother is all about recognizing your personal limits, learning flexibility, and working efficiently in your dual roles. We know what artist/mothers know, which is that our children can be our own tiny helpers, cheerleaders, and critics, whose presence may be invisible in our work but resonates throughout. That said, Calida expresses the value of slowing down and trying to find time for yourself, too! 

I’ve learned through talking with Calida that she embodies the mediations embedded in her work — like moving through water, she finds peace through accepting chaos and “going with the flow.”

You can see more of Calida’s work on her website and her IG @calidagarciarawles

The Artist/Mother podcast is created and hosted by Kaylan Buteyn. You can see more of Kaylan’s work on her website or connect with her on Instagram @kaylanbuteyn

Calida has a show opening this week, February 12th, at Various Small Fires in Los Angeles, California. Noted from their press release “VSF is pleased to present A Dream for My Lilith, the gallery’s first solo exhibition with Calida Rawles. Reflecting on topographical matters which shape and hold black life, Rawles merges realism with poetic abstraction through immersive paintings using acrylic on canvas. With this exhibition, Rawles employs water as multifaceted material and space to consider possibilities of womanhood, tranquility, and otherworldliness.”  

Calida Garcia Rawles
The Space in Which We Travel, 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 144” x 84”
Calida working in her studio
Book cover for The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Calida with her daughter Siena working in her studio, around the time she first began painting figures in water
North & Penn, (for Freddie Gray), 2018, acrylic on canvas, 60″ x 72″
Calida with her daughter Siena working in her studio, around the time she first began painting figures in water
Little Swimmer, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 48″ x 60″

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