Located just past the downtown core of Calgary, hidden among the dizzying and narrow streets of the city beltline, lies a laundromat. This laundromat is in many ways like all other laundromats. It contains washing machines and dryers for cleaning clothes at a cheap price. It even has a handy dandy little soap dispenser in case you forgot your own. However, for the month of October 2014, a visit to the Lux Laundromat is probably not for taking care of your dirty laundry.
Our very own budding Bulldog artist, Natalie Slaba, has transformed the routine of the laundromat into a gallery of the complex and hypnagogic images that she has envisioned in her mind and created with her talented hands. You’ve probably seen her posters around the school, and perhaps in a nearby Starbucks.
From October 1st-31st, her debut art show, A Sip of My Surrealistic Infusion, will be accessible for anyone to explore. Her opening gala, which took place on October 4th, featured live music from I Am the Mountain, and was packed with many admiring visitors, and, of course, displayed her extraordinary visual conceptions.
At the gala, The Churchill Chronicle was able to talk to Natalie about answering some interview questions about her experience, thoughts, passions, and her art. She has since responded to each question, from offering her insight on growing up in different places, which many Churchill students can relate to, to finding, working at, and sharing her passions and accomplishments.
CC (Churchill Chronicle): What kind of art do you do and why do you do it?
NS (Natalie Slaba): I am a surrealistic mural artist. To me, surrealism is using the subconscious to express complete honesty and human nature.
Asking why I paint is kind of like asking a cat why it meow’s; it’s a natural way of self-expression. Over time, I have built a strong relationship with art; it has been my support in complicated situations. As a child, I have moved frequently with my family between North America and Europe and because of art I was able to tie those separate worlds together. I felt like a different person in each country, but I have been consistently prone to art. Art has shaped who I am today. Thanks to it, I know myself, since I believe that a picture is a window into an artist’s head.
CC: Are you self-taught? Did you ever take art classes?
NS: I believe that exploring any subject oneself is the best way to become familiar with it, since you do not only learn the assigned criteria, but you are able to master it in your own way.
I have taken many school art courses, but always felt restricted. It wasn’t until I took an art course on my French exchange to Lille, France that I became convinced that being taught art could be a productive way of learning. I had an inspiring professor, who understood that art goes beyond a given assignment. He is the living and walking proof of no restrictions. By this, I am not simply referring to his creating, but also to the lifestyle he lives.
CC: Who or what has inspired you?
NS: As I have mentioned in my previous answer, my French professor has been a great inspiration. On another note I am inspired by anything that makes me feel any affection. It could be a life experience, music, people, history, disasters, gaining knowledge, etc.
CC: What is your work process like?
NS: When I work, I become extremely focused. When I am in the mood I am able to stay focused for long periods of time and disregard the world around me, fixed on what I am making.
CC: What other hobbies or interests do you have?
NS: I have many hobbies and interests apart from art. Recently for example, I began writing and performing spoken word poetry.
Besides creativity I like to use my energy physically. I spent three years on the Southern Alberta Freestyle Ski team. I also did gymnastics for four years. I did ballet, jazz and contemporary dance for one and a half years. I competed in Irish dancing when I lived in Ireland and recently I have become involved in circus and capoeira.
I also enjoy spending time with myself, with my friends, and meeting new people. I like to wander around by myself and explore new environments. To add to this I am intrigued by foreign culture and languages. I enjoy practicing the three that I speak fluently, English, Czech and French, through reading or conversing.
CC: What is your favourite medium?
NS: I prefer wall paint and acrylic as my two favorite mediums.
CC: What is your favourite place?
NS: I am inspired by new places and my favorites are the most alternative ones. Most of all, I like exploring places and wandering by myself.
CC: What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
NS: It wasn’t advice that has inspired me, since I usually try to rebel to it, but it’s the lesson I observe from people that usually has an effect on what I do.
CC: How have you spread awareness of your work?
NS: I am a very open and a confident person when it comes to meeting new people. I am not shy to start a conversation with a stranger. By meeting and talking to people, I have gotten myself into a gallery, which then transferred my images to Angle’s Hair Salon in Strathcona. Then I met the owner of Lux Laundromat who lets artists display their art on his walls for free and lets them have an opening gala.
CC: Do you have any advice for other aspiring Churchill artists?
NS: Stop learning the criteria and get into your head.
Natalie’s masterpieces will be displayed in the Lux Laundromat (#2 1211 14th Street SW) until the 31st of October for anyone to drop by. Works of art from the past five years illuminate the walls; it’s hard to believe you’re standing in front of a washing machine. An Orange Giraffe, a school project from seventh grade art at Tom Baines School is featured, as well as another school project, Circling Around a Cube, some Churchillians may recognize as an Art 10 cubism project that once hung in our school library. Her most unique showpieces that are displayed are simply breathtaking, such as Walking on a Line and The Woman, the latter being featured on the posters hanging in the Churchill hallways.
Natalie Slaba sets a wonderful example as a 16 year old young artist who is able to bring her visions to life and share them with her community. She demonstrates admirable dedication to her projects and practice. She proves that hard work, networking, and finding oneself through their passions leads one down a path to jubilant milestones and success. She is a warm and friendly wanderer of Sir Winston Churchill High School’s corridors. You might be able to find her at Poetry Club. Nonetheless, every face in our crowded hallways has a story, and a unique way of thinking and seeing the world. Natalie Slaba shares her thoughts, story, and passions, and inspires many of her peers, through her unique and extraordinary gift.