We had the good fortune of connecting with Natalya Kochak and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Natalya, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Taking risks has been an integral part of my growth since the very beginning when I headed to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago for Undergrad. After graduation, I began a decorative painting company named Bluebird Design to support my arts practice, another risk. From there I continued to do things such as travel to China twice for artist residencies, teach an art program in Uganda, and continually push myself to apply for more and more. I believe to be an artist you must be a risk taker. There is nothing safe about creating work. You must have a drive that pushes you through the rejection and difficult times. After years out of undergrad, I went back to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago for my masters, because one of my biggest dreams was always to teach. I try to always pass on the knowledge that risk is ever important to complete an ambition.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I grew up in New York, but moved to Kansas City and then Alabama all while in high school. While in Kansas I went to the Kansas City Art Institute for a summer program all because I had an amazing teacher who submitted my portfolio for me. I got in with a full scholarship. That moment impacted me profoundly in wanting to be a teacher and professor. After Kansas City, my senior year I moved to Alabama. Each place gave me a new outlook on human existence and culture. Each place had their strengths and their faults. I loved the people in each and I learned what it meant to be open to learning as a way of life. After high school I moved to Chicago to attend The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. A place that I love. While there I learned a way to express myself through art, as well as, use my mind to critically think. I began to do murals for interior designers at this time. Upon graduation I moved to Austin, Texas and had no idea what I would do for a living. I kept my eyes open to what was available to me. I began to work for a decorative painting company and I saw this was a path to work for myself and give me the freedom to continue my art the way I wanted to. I decided I would learn for one year and start my own business. A year later I started Bluebird Design Decorative Painting. I transitioned from Austin to Miami, where I reside today. I’ve been continuing my business for years now and have been lucky enough to design houses to look like French chateaus and the decorative design at one of Miami’s coolest lounges, Los Altos in Little Havana. Creating this business also gave me the flexibility to do artist residencies all over the world. I’ve done two in China, one in Berlin, and even taught art in Uganda for a period, as well as, many others. In Miami, I decided to go back to school at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago for my masters degree. Upon graduation in 2018, I was a resident artist for Project Art and taught out of the library system in Liberty City. I also began working as an adjunct professor at Miami International University which I have been doing for two years. I now continue to teach children even on Saturdays at Kalos Music and Art School in Aventura. I continue to work my business and teach college students. I love it all. My art has even been a journey. While in graduate school I learned of my family history and began to work on a project that I continue on till this day. It has impacted me and my family tremendously and I believe It goes beyond art and into something more important. Below is a snippet of my artistic focus: ‘My Family Anti-Autobiography is a project involving an exploration of the intersection of black and white peoples in U.S. history. This ongoing project grew out of the unexpected connection formed between my family and Paula Whatley, a former professor and documentary maker. Our common connection is an ancestor who was a slave master; Paula is the descendant of an enslaved woman and my mother and I are the descendants of the slave master. I proposed a project using our family archives to make reimagined images of our family, and Paula and her daughter respond to everything I create. We have a continued Skype conversation. I am collecting data, a new archive, and rotating agency. Although rooted in the past, the paintings are meant to be timeless, creating a confusion. They are like a time machine. These images introduce a discussion of post-memory and how memories of the past are transmitted from generation to generation. My Family Anti- Autobiography is also a manipulated book I created. The original book was the diary of a confederate woman named Mary Chesnut. I eliminated most of her writings, overlaying it with our 4 women’s writings, collages and drawings of our ancestors that are blood related. In doing this I am creating a new diary.’ It has been a tremendously wild ride to get where I am today. It has been hard sometimes, but it has also been rewarding. The key is to stay the course and never give up. I love teaching and I love art. I am grateful for my business, www.bluebirdesign.com. This summer I will be traveling to Wyoming to do an artist residency at Jentel Artist Residency. Last year I was given the opportunity to do a mural at Jose De Diego Middle School in Wynwood through a non-profit Raw Project, in which artists are invited to cover the walls of underserved schools to create excitement among the kids. I am always looking and searching for opportunities. Art is not just about creating an object, but it is a way of life.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I am incredibly outdoorsy and feel most alive when outdoors. This is one reason why I love Miami. When friends come into town I take them to the beach and to go bike riding and rollerblading on South Beach. Kayaking and Paddle boarding is always a fun thing to do as well. I always take them to the nightclub Los Altos in Little Havana. I want to give my friends a taste of Miami nightlife and show them this nightclub in particular as I did all the Decorative Painting Design and work in the place, from the gold leaf ceilings and hand painted details on furniture, to the plaster walls to look like a crumbling hacienda. I love to take friends to Ceviche 105 to experience Peruvian Ceviche and all things art are a must such as the Perez art museum or an opening at a gallery show.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to dedicate my Shoutout to my parents, who have always 100% believed in me. That support has kept me going when I have wanted to quit. I would also like to mention that my alma mater The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and those in the alumni program have really encouraged me and asked me to help put together an alumni group in Miami to help support other artists.