In Sanskrit, samsara refers to passing through sequential cycles of life, and SoCal artist Natalia Fabia imagines these cycles with rainbow-like brilliance in a 2016 solo show titled Rainbeau Samsara. Highlighting the growth she experienced in both individual pieces and overall theme, her latest works embody a cosmic portrait of life as seen through the stardust that binds all elements of the universe, and they explore the different stages of physical life through this stellar-spiritual prism. The punk-centric figurative painter still employs the technical expertise she developed at the Art Center College of Design, yet she continues to rebel against fine-art norms with her use of sparkles, glitter and candy-colored splashes. She elevates the female form while expanding femininity through the larger context of life cycles and cosmic connection. Fabia epitomizes an artist taking bold new steps, and PRØHBTD spoke with her to learn more.
You went four years without a solo show. What elements of your signature style remain present in the latest artwork, and what elements reflect new ideas, direction and technique?
I’m still painting figurative realism in a traditional oil painting technique, however, there are more areas of abstract design elements and painterly textures. I’ve shifted focus from the tightness of realism to more paint stroke diversity, allowing the context to be created through mark making. This show concept is more complex to me, very different and personal. Much of my previous work focused on the empowerment of women, while this show is about the human experience and the cycle of life.
In the past four years, you gained a family member and sadly lost one. How have your views on life and death evolved as portrayed through your artwork?
My daughter has taught me not be so inhibited in painting and to fall back in love with simple things. Watching her draw, I remember there are no rules, which is something I tend to forget coming from a traditional art training. Nothing has to be anything, it's all about the process, which should be enjoyable.
The loss of my brother made me question everything. It was a shock and so confusing. I can see now my paintings in the past tended to be more playful—I would intentionally not paint serious things that would get me too deep into interpretation. I can get very dark. This conflict between the joy I find in my daughter and the immeasurable sadness about my brother brought me here to this show I’m working on now, and similar conclusions about life as reflected in the rainbeau samsara.
When making art, what drives your imagination more, emotions or beliefs?
I want to say emotions. These emotions may be structured by a belief, but it is my emotion driving the impulse to create.
What themes and symbolism inherent in the female form do you find yourself embracing most as an artist?
Strong women, motherhood, sensuality… there is just something that draws me to the female form. I can’t help but be attracted to it. To me, there is nothing more beautiful than femininity.
If I understand you correctly, everything is made of stardust, which is what connects the human form to stars and planets on the other side of the galaxy. How should this concept guide how we express ourselves and interact with each other?
On a molecular level there is a singular connection we all share, intertwining our lives and everything we see. There are touchstones that we experience in life that remind us we are a part of something greater, and finding your path to individual expression within this connection can be enlightening if you are open and aware of how your actions will affect others.
What is the best example of a case in which your love for fashion and your talent as an artist intersected in a magnificent way?
That's so funny! For my art center grad final, I had a runway fashion show of my jewelry and clothes made that eventually ended up in many of my paintings. I planned each piece of clothing to tell a story and chose each model specially for that piece. I always dress my models for my paintings. I love it!
As an artist, you constantly strive to evolve and grow your talents. In what ways could the same be said of your personal fashion style?
I’m constantly analyzing and reflecting things that influence me, whether it is my upcoming show or general interests such as yoga, vegan lifestyle, landscapes, music scenes, etc. I get inspiration from some of my favorite fashion designers like Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. I’d say some of my growth is no longer trying to identify who I am through clothing. I am who I am, and I’m comfortable dressing as myself. I still modify some of my own clothes, and I generally try to stay glamorous and individual.
You have been in a long-term relationship with a member of Bad Religion, and yet you live in Orange County, which is widely considered the birthplace of Christian punk. Any thoughts on the irony of this?
That was my husband's idea. He just wants to surf.
Several past exhibits had “hooker” themes, which you described as a nickname you called many of your girlfriends and not a direct reference to sex workers. That said, have you had sex workers come to your shows and discuss their trade with you?
I have. I’ve talked with someone who used to be a sex worker who came to one my shows. She was positive to me, but I realize there are so many different stories and so many sad stories. I’ve had an email correspondence with a young male sex worker who was happy I was empowering sex workers, but that was never my intention. I really never thought of sex workers when I was using the term “hooker.”
If you had to cast a reality show called Hookers, what three individuals—famous or not—would you want on the show?
That's an interesting question! It has to be reality, so there must be content and conflict, and for me I need visual stimulation.
1. Heather McDonald, because I love comedians.
2. Courtney Love, because train wreck.
3. Donatella Versace, because lavish and sparkly, bitches.
You made your body a canvas for so many gorgeous tattoos. When choosing images for a tattoo, are there aesthetic or symbolic preferences you prefer that might differ from artwork you might paint or seek to acquire?
Paintings to me are, or should be, designed to create an emotion or feeling that allows the viewer to create a narrative. Most of my tattoos are decorative in purpose, like adornments. They don't tell the story of me. My tattoo preferences are just what I’m into at the time.
What is an important theme represented in one of your tattoos that you have yet to use in the artwork you create?
I’ve got a few polish tattoos. I’m just starting to really explore my polish heritage in my paintings, traditional folk art, clothing and design, landscapes… I have a few planned and a couple on the easel.
David Jenison (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD.