Nina Tichava

This past spring we visited the studio of Nina Tichava in Santa Fe, NM. We literally instagrammed her and asked if we could come visit her studio. Shinano Katagiri captured our time together. Don’t miss her solo exhibition at K Contemporary in Denver this coming November.

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Nina worked the entire time we were at her studio. She was painting a commission on a very tight deadline. By saying “yes” to work like this she is able to nourish the relationships she has built within the art world, but it also means a lot of hard work. It’s likely that she will be working in the studio every day for 6-7 weeks at a time. “A prominent element of my work is the application of thousands of beads of paint, painstakingly and individually painted with a brush and used to create screens and patterns.”


Another hurdle of commissioned work is that it is often meant to replicate another one of her paintings, which provides its own rewards and challenges. Trying to recollect exactly what steps she took to create a certain look is difficult with a practice like Nina’s. She works on multiple paintings at one time, each in a different stage. But ultimately she finds excitement and joy in this challenge and fully embraces the struggle. Nina says, “I feel lucky that I love every painting I do, they are never the same.”


Tichava is a prolific artist, having created hundreds upon hundreds of paintings over her 15 year career. This year she will finalize up to 20 large scale paintings (which are usually diptychs or triptychs for the practicality of moving them around and out of her studio). Almost all of her past work is sold. The idea of saving or archiving her work is too impractical for her – she wants it out there!

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New ideas come naturally to Nina, she actually wonders when or if she will run out of ideas to try. She is driven to produce and thrives on the process of making. She doesn’t spend her time overthinking concepts because to her the process is more important than the intent.

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The most conceptual work to date is a series called “Borrowed Landscapes” which uses a common point of reference to explore shifts of perspective and communication. These small works also fall into her steady rhythm of produce, produce, produce. She created 175 postcard paintings over the span of 18 months.

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Years of experience in the art world have taught her to just believe in what you’re doing. Her dad told her to just keep painting, stay present and keep painting. The fact that she is a successful, self-supporting artist didn’t come without a struggle. At times she worked without an income for 6 months and had to ask herself, at what point do I need to get a job? This question torments a lot of creatives and ultimately perpetuates itself - the longer you’re out of the workforce the more unemployable you become. There is also the whole business side of being an artist and the constant ebb and flow of recognition and rejection. Even after countless rejections and literally getting blown off by galleries, she still loves being an artist. “It’s the best job in the world!”