I sit with Naomi Christianson, 38, on the top floor of her home in Upper Marlboro, MD in a kaleidoscopic multi-colored metal chair constructed from a Vietnamese warship. We’re a few feet from her latest piece Fire’s Space Fashion which is a few days from completion. The three-dimensional painting is emblazoned with hand painted beads, painted acrylic molding, and a variety of feathers.
It’s astonishing to discover Naomi quit her corporate job just two years ago. A prophetic dream instructed her to leave her life in Australia where she made $260,000 as a corporate executive, living in a penthouse overlooking the ocean. The messenger in her dream showed her future as an artist in DC. Two weeks later, her company surprised Naomi with a full relocation package to DC. “I had to make some crazy ass decisions to make that transition,” she says, but the gentle persistence of her dreams pushed her forward.
In 2014, Naomi picked up a paintbrush for the first time in ten years. She worked out of a studio at the Torpedo Factory until recently when she moved her studio into her house. “I found myself not fundamentally aligned from a value perspective with TFAA (Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association),” she says, “If I could start a collective art space with a bunch of artists, I would put effort into keeping a studio open so artists could sell their prints.”
She views independent artist collectives as an ideal space. Devoid of a traditionally controlled relationship based on an employee/employer dynamic, she views collaborative groups as a place where “people are growing something from within….(when artists) are creating with this cutting edge collective consciousness, they are pushing out some of these values around control. I think you will see more artists that are socially conscious about their art wanting to work and collaborate with other people,” says Naomi.
Naomi has pots bubbling on every burner: her Cosmic Cowgirl Adventures series which includes paintings, prints, and a children’s book; applications to 20+ shows; commissions, her Walking with Purpose clothing project; and seeking collaborative relationships for future projects. “I have been thinking a lot about this concept of keeping it local. I don’t want to pay a lot of homage – my time and my energy – to things that are a five hour drive and are already a glowing hub like NYC. I find things to worship locally. I click in where I think truly feel I can click in, with people with like-minded values.”
One such local project is her decision to mentor a recent graduate from Howard University. Together they will produce a series of photographs and paintings of local non-identifying gender men and women and then donate part of the profits back to the individual cause each person represents.
“There is a big thing in DC where you have a duty to market social issues through your art,” says Naomi, “but to make a real change, you have to change yourself first. Here is the social issue, now what is the second half of that equation….No shame, no guilt, no pointing fingers, just go internal and look at the relationships around you and do you reflect that value you want to see in society? And if you do, shine that out as shiny as you can so other people can learn from it. It’s a process of change.”
Naomi’s internal change and growth is blossoming alongside her success as a visual artist. “Right now I’m on a sweet milk and honey path of slowing way the fuck down. And learning about myself and relearning about what my values are. It’s actually got to the point where things are actually blissful.”
How do you deal with harsh criticism? Have you ever had a surprising comment? Where?
I am a firm believer in the universe reflecting back what I need to see and/or hear. I also do not believe in anyone posturing over examples of Art and applying personal criticism to the artist. I find that behavior so puzzling that I sometimes forget to take it personally and just forget about it. Once a juror specifically come to an opening to tell me she loved my art, but thought the faces were too distracting and that I should take them out or make them more abstract. I was very grateful and honored she provided that direction. Other artists found it offensive. I was grateful and I still paint my faces… in fact with more details now. I think sometimes the universe delivers you messages with the intent of developing your ability to stand ground and have confidence with the personal delicate creative ethereal flow we maintain during our art practice. We need to stay true to doing what feels right for us, that’s the voice I am trying to respect and ground. Sometimes this other voice possesses me after getting rejected to shows, though, and I have a “poor me” moment and question my self-worth and my reason for being on this planet. I am getting better at that.
Do you have any rituals?
I feel my art is part of my life practice. It’s one of the many things I do to keep my vata constitution in balance (my particular Dosha based on Ayurvedic science). This particular constitution is sensitive to common rituals found in the herd. So, I have to make a point to (as much as I can), eat vegan (50% raw), be gluten free, caffeine free, and alcohol free, have time alone, time to listen to silence and nature talk, and a very intentional prana practice with slow strong asana flow. For me, this ritual is how I commune with the frequency I get my life and creative force from making me a bit of an introvert. Literally, I can get very sick from crowds, beer, and high acidic foods. This lifestyle keeps me strong and my face away from my toilet bowl. Words are too restrictive for me to create sometimes, so a blank mind and canvas with intention free focus is how I process this frequency that keeps me healthy and strong. This is why I think I had to quit my job and just practice art full-time, it is how I practice maintaining my life force’s constitution. This would be a lot easier if I didn’t love beer and ice-cream so much.
What are you thinking about in the studio?
I don’t think and that’s why this space is so addictive for my spirit. I get in this vortex with my canvas. I don’t know where I go or how long I’ve been gone for, but when I come out, sometimes I look at my canvas and say to myself, “Did I paint that?”
How do you know when you’re done?
When the painting reaches its show application deadline or hanging deadline.
Quick. First three favorite artists that come to mind?
Your greatest success and worst failure?
I don’t really think like that. It causes competition in the mind focusing my attention on the past and applying judgment to my moments… Doesn’t do me any good.
What part of NoVA do you visit for inspiration?
Wherever my three favorite artists are.
Have you ever regretted selling a piece and why?
Life has a way of course correcting any misstep, so I try not to let regrets or attachments consume my brainpower. I feel pretty confident in keeping my creative portal open. I always feel I can create another and stifle that type of attachment.
Find Naomi online at theomiexperience.com and on Instagram at @omiexperience