Yoga = Art

Artist Feature: Nicole Wandera

To local artist, mom, activist and yogi Nicole Wandera, the breath and body are an integral part of the creative process. Nicole’s work is a representation of her experiences, community and social justice issues that are most important to her, most recently creating illustrations for the National Network to Ending Domestic Violence, which brings awareness to victims of domestic abuse. Learn more about Nicole how yoga and meditation has influenced her creative process in the full interview.

“(Art) is essentially mediation. There is this sacred place I go to when I’m really in the zone, everything around me disappears and my body takes over.  I can get to this place by opening my heart and mind .” 

Tell me about your work. What inspires you?

I’m an artist from Kenya currently living in Fairfax, VA. I do a little of everything and this entails painting, drawing, digital art, animation and 3d graphics. Art imitates life, so a lot of my work is inspired by my experiences, my community, and social justice issues. I strongly believe in art as a form of healing and a visual language that can help bridge gaps in communication and bring people together.

What are you currently working on?

I just finished a project for National Network to Ending Domestic Violence, which brings awareness to victims of domestic abuse. Spreading awareness about this issue is vital, especially now when their homes are not a safe space for them. The illustrations were for the victims or rather survivors of abuse to let them know they are beautiful, inspiring, and strong.

Currently, I am working on something completely different. I have been reading Frank Hurbet’s Dune and Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone. I have been experimenting a lot with digital art and trying to create a world where both books come together. It’s been a great way to exercise my imagination and a form of escapism during these stressful times.

How has living in DC with COVID precautions affected your work?

Talking about stressful times, I have been trying to balance working from home, being a single mom, and planning for an uncertain future very unsuccessfully. However, I have been able to keep my sanity by doing a lot of yoga, meditating, spending quality time with my twins, and making a lot of art. When the pandemic first hit, I made this piece just to find a way to process with the reality of what’s happening and praise our health workers.

I’m curious about the mind-body connection and your work. If you do yoga or other holistic movement practices, how does it affect your creative process?

My body is an integral part of the creative process. I think I realized this connection when I was pregnant. I spent most of my time creating this pregnancy piece (seen below), and I honestly think it’s the strongest work I have ever made. Because I was creating people, I was able to tap into this endless source of love within the universe and channel it into my work.

I lost this connecting along the way because life happens, but recently I have been gaining it back through practicing yoga. I am a complete beginner, but I try to meditate and practice every morning, and it helps me get through the day a little less stressed out. I practice every time I start working, and I have seen a world of difference in my art, especially my creativity and work ethic.

When you’re in the creative process, how do you relate to your body and breath?

I don’t think I notice it, but now that I think about it. It is essentially mediation, and there is this sacred place I go to when I am really in the zone, everything around me disappears, and my body takes over. My breath, my hand, and whatever tools I am using just sync up. I find it hard to explain, but it is like being in a lucid dream, and I can get to this place by opening my heart and mind (until my twins wake me up with there random death-match fights).

If I were able to follow you around to see art in DC, which places would we go? What would we see?

I hope that all these places are open soon and we can enjoy them after this pandemic is over. Visit the art walk at Brookland Arts Walk, it’s incredible; there are so many talented artists and collectives you can meet.

The Omicollective, they provide safe healing spaces for creativity and their events are a good way to feed your soul.

Check out the Phillips Collection; it is the first modern art museum in our country. The building is beautiful, and there is something for every art lover. I love it because not a lot of people know about it, so it’s usually quite and you can avoid the crowds. They also have an event every first Thursday that I think everyone needs to go to at least once, they also host a lot of artists talks with local and international artists.

Another gem is the National Museum of African Art, which is a great place to learn about the richness of African art. It’s stunning inside, and because it’s relatively hidden, it’s a nice quiet place just to go, relax and contemplate.

Who are some of the DC artists you enjoy?

Check out Nicole on Instagram or learn more on her website.