Sitting amidst her latest works and paintings, artist Maya Lama ’09 looks perfectly at home in her studio, a small and intimate workspace in a larger, subdivided room reserved for mostly senior art majors. Music plays in the background, creating a relaxed and inspiring atmosphere for the artists, who, despite the solitary nature of their work, form a supportive and fun community.
Affable and modest, Lama met me at her studio Saturday afternoon, where we discussed her current artwork, her inspiration and her plans for the future. The senior artist says the College has allowed her to explore her passion for art and has helped her decide to direct her love for creating art into a career.
Of Japanese and Nepali heritage, Lama grew up in Nepal, where, she said, “Art is not regarded as a noble profession.” While she was interested in art from an early age, Lama “never really thought of making it into a career.” Nevertheless, her mother encouraged the budding artist by taking her to an art teacher once a week for lessons. Because art was not a standard part of Nepali schools, Lama had to discover her inclination for drawing through other means. In fact, her childhood passion for art even led Lama to copy characters from comic books she read.
Lama admitted that this early discovery of art still manifests itself in her current work. A theme that runs through most of her recent works is a Japanese doll figure, which takes its inspiration from different designs of Japanese dolls. Seeing a similarity in the structure of the dolls, she used the figure as a motif in various patterns, aiming for a “disorienting” effect. According to Lama, the idea of the figure, specifically when used in “repeated patterns,” gives a certain “creepiness [and] distant” feel. She is particularly interested in exploring a “darker side” in her paintings, hoping to evoke a reaction to her semi-abstract works from her viewers. Many of her works are vibrant and complex, inviting the viewer to look deeper into the painting’s graphic abstract representations.
When asked about her style and how she feels it has developed, Lama stressed that her current style is not settled; it is a stage of experimentation as she grows and matures as an artist. “I’m just exploring different things,” she said, adding that while she’s mostly stayed within the fine arts, she’d like to eventually try other mediums, such as film, as an outlet for her creativity.
For Lama, one of the hardest and most exciting challenges of her senior year is the difficulty of “working on something not [specifically] assigned for a class.” Her senior art classes, including the senior seminar that will culminate with an exhibition of her work, encourage her to “take inspiration from readings” and from her environment.
Since coming to the College, Lama has studied with faculty on campus, under a New York City artist last summer and in Florence last year on a study-abroad program. All have shaped her growth as an artist and her determination to make a career out of art after college. Lama said she especially appreciates the support she has received from her fellow artists on campus, as meeting other people who share her interest and see art as a viable career choice helped her decide to focus on art throughout school and beyond.
To help promote student art in the community and to allow serious students to exhibit work individually, Lama and her friends formed a student group called HW Presents. The purely student-run group works to offer students the opportunity to get their work into the community outside of standard class exhibitions. Currently, the group has student work on rotation in Images Cinema, where one of Lama’s latest paintings is displayed.
As any artist, musician or writer hoping to establish themselves enough to make a living solely on their art, Lama knows she must strike a balance between making a living and focusing on her artwork after Williams. She hopes to move to New York City and dive right into the art scene, centering her attention on art while getting a side job that won’t distract her from her main focus. “I want to make art my priority … if I [don’t], art will always remain a hobby,” Lama said.
While she doesn’t want to return to Nepal immediately because of the current political situation, Lama does hope to move back to her native country someday, saying that she loves how mobile an art career would allow her to be. In the meantime, Lama is focusing on her senior studio art seminar and enjoying her last months at the College. If you haven’t already, you should check out this talented artist’s work while she is still here.