In the Studio with Rita G. Patel

I find inspiration all around me and I think it is because the impulse to create is ever present for me. I cannot imagine a life without that feeling. And this impulse is closely tied to the desire to create harmony and beauty.

Rita G. Patel

Rita Patel is a self-taught mixed-media artist whose artworks incorporate surface design, abstract painting, illustration and relational art. Her work asks the question: what if we could transform the world by experiencing beauty? This experience is a rich source of inspiration that informs her creative process at the intersection of beauty, well-being (social, emotional, and mental) and creativity. 

J’AIPUR Journal: Please introduce our readers to your series of works that are part of our online exhibit. How did these works come about?

Rita G. Patel: The Circle series began as an impulse where I was working and re-working materials I already had into a new cohesive form. The circle shape and its curves were comforting and settling in a time of great change in 2020. I started these pieces with repurposed paint, paper, canvas and saree fabric all meant originally for another use. On a symbolic level, while painting and assembling the media, each became a meditation on different and overlapping ideas represented by the circle; how we all live in bubbles of our own making and how they overlap and bump up against other bubbles. We are more connected than we realize it seems; how time in our natural lives is cyclical and not a linear journey from point A to point B. Rhythms guide us and we live spherically, and I wonder why when there is no path, we walk in a circle. Thinking of new economics, the donut economy starts to make sense. Being inclusive and ecologically minded, can we all connect and flourish? I ask: can our experience of beauty change the world? In the case of this series, can the visual experience here lead us to new ways of contemplating our world together? I am still pondering these ideas and the more I view my work, the deeper I go into them as the meditation has now become a conversation now.

JJ: What is your background and how did you become an artist?

Rita: I have always loved making and creating in a variety of forms. From a young age I knew that I wanted to be an artist. For me there is no other way to live in the world. I do not have formal training as an artist other than classes I take to learn new techniques and to be inspired. Visually creating is a way for me to be complete and express myself wholly and also connect with people and life. My formal education includes a Masters in Public Health from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, with a focus on Quality of Life, and certifications in Conversational Leadership by poet David Whyte, Enchantivism, and Creative Problem Solving. I also have my CPA, and am both a Certified Workplace Wellness Program Manager and Public Health and Well-being Specialist. My background forms a unique perspective and is a rich source of inspiration that informs my creative process which is at the intersection of beauty, well-being and creativity.

JJ: Describe your creative process.

Rita: I am a mixed media artist and surface pattern designer inspired by materials, methods and patterns. I work as a builder where the materials and I interact to become the art. I have a ‘what if’ approach to life that translates into my art practice. I experiment and that is an essential part of my process. Ultimately, my creative process is guided by my personal experience of beauty. It is the foundation of my work. Being in conversation with beauty in my process is how I live an artful life.

JJ: Who are some women artists (living or dead) that you admire?

Rita: I admire so many artists and am inspired by each in a different way. One that I keep coming back to is Tara Donovan whose work is about practice and making. Her work stays with me and I love how she uses mundane materials to create beautiful, awe-inspiring work. In a recent article of her work, these ideas really resonated with how I also feel: “Instead of changing minds, change eyes.” Her work consists of installations and I am also working towards creating more installation and immersive pieces so I find her work particularly inspiring.

JJ: Name an art exhibition that had a lasting impression upon you.

Rita: I travel to see art exhibitions and one that stands out is Dior: From Paris to the World in Dallas in 2019. I loved learning about the process inspired by beauty and flowers that led to such an impactful endeavor and then re-interpreted by various creative directors. The creative process of each of them and the end results shown in the exhibition was not only inspiring and gorgeous but also gave permission to the value of my individual interpretation of common themes.

JJ: What inspires you to create?

Rita: I find inspiration all around me and I think it is because the impulse to create is ever present for me. I cannot imagine a life without that feeling. And this impulse is closely tied to the desire to create harmony and beauty.

JJ: What are some tools, techniques and materials that you employ to create your work?

Rita: I use brushes and paint as you would expect from any artist but I also use materials in an ‘off label’ way. My favorites right now are styrofoam from packaging, used up gift cards, string and drywall tape. They all help in creating textures and patterns which become part of all my work.

JJ: How would you like to see your artistic practice/career evolve over the next few years?

Rita: I am moving more in the direction of mixed media that incorporates paper and fabric. I have a running theme of ‘create a scene’ that I am working towards where I want to create immersive installations and experiences. I am thinking about how we live, work and play in our spaces and places and how the visual experience of beauty and awe can affect our well-being and moods.

JJ: What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an artist?

Rita: To be an artist is a frame of mind and a way of life. My advice is to cultivate what that means for you individually and how you want to express that in all parts of your life. I feel the key element to nourish is your intuition and go where that takes you. Have faith in it. Being an artist is a revolutionary stance.

JJ: How do you navigate the art world in terms of finding opportunities and building a collector base?

Rita: I see art as a relationship and not just something I create to find collectors for. I look to consistently make connections and share who I am and why I do what I do. I feel that builds connections and lays down possibilities for my art. In practice, I reach out and research opportunities and I find talking about what I do whether in person or online has led to unexpected opportunities. I also do not limit who I talk to and share my work with.

JJ: What are some challenges you have faced as an artist?

Rita: Practically finding space and time to work is an off-and-on challenge that I imagine most artists can relate to. I also find that in our society we tend to not know how or do not value the essential nature of creativity and art because it is hard to quantify. It is both embedded in our life but not at the forefront.

JJ: How do you think the art world can better support women artists?

Rita: I think a mindshift on valuing all types of art from all types of creators is vital. I think it is important to evaluate why things are the way they are from within the art world and how are the gatekeepers in a position to transform it. The art world is bigger than the Art World and it is a matter of willingness to address this and then a cascade of shifts can happen positively affecting not just women but everyone.

JJ: What do you like to do when you are not making art?

Rita: Watching birds, reading or watching either crime/mystery or fantastical, magical stories.

Contact us if you are interested in more information about the artist and purchasing her works. We encourage you to support women artists to bring greater diversity into the art world!

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