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Nubia Gala’s Art Reflects Her Adventurous Life

Bouquet of Reds,48×60, acrylic on canvas.

The Katy Resident Is An Intrepid Explorer, An Abstract Painter, An International Mentor

By Mara Soloway

For Katy artist Nubia Gala, finding inspiration does not involve any stereotypical artist angst of standing in front of a canvas waiting for the muse. She’s inspired long before she gets in her studio, carrying ideas in her mind that may have been influenced thousands of miles away on one of her solo adventures. Or she will just start painting and see where the work takes her. Her 1,000 or so paintings have been influenced by the colors, textures and shapes of nature, primarily those of flowers.

Her artistic successes include taking part in major art fairs such as the Red Dot at Mi­­­­a­­mi Basel and the Modern and Con­temporary art show in Los Angeles and being represented at more than a dozen galleries across the U.S.

Nubia’s early works were representational; she grew to feel abstract paintings more fully resonate with how she lives her life. “My life is full of adventure and surprises, and my paintings are just like that,” she says. She travels without a return date and doesn’t rely on schedules, maps or her cell phone.

This type of adventuring doesn’t worry her. “It’s important to feed our soul and get to know ourselves in the world. When I travel by myself I’m never alone. I meet  a lot of strangers that become instant friends.”

Her most recent solo exhibition was held at Third Coast Galleries in Galveston, which has represented her work for several years. The exhibit was, not surprisingly, called Journey. “All of us have a journey and we build a patchwork of experiences, moving from one direction to another,” Nubia feels. “A lot of my paintings depict very abstracted figures, journeying through the canvas, through space.”

On her last trip, Nubia went home to Colombia and to the Amazon River basin where Colombia, Peru and Brazil meet. She found a guide to take her down the river.

“You cannot compare this experience to anything. It is so far removed from civilization. You’re so connected to the sounds of nature, day and night, the birds and the insects. I hear them in a tape in my mind.” The meander of the Amazon and the abundant colors and textures of all the flora and fauna she saw have inspired her next series of works to be called Colors and Patterns: Amazonia.

Nubia met her husband Robert Seibert while traveling. When he asked her to marry him in 1982, she stipulated that she would continue to travel and finish college. They have lived in Katy since the early 2000s. They often travel together and with their two adult children: daughter Monica Seibert, who is also an artist and lives in the Museum District, and son Kevin Seibert who lives in Utah and also travels widely, climbing at high altitudes.

Traveling is part of her DNA. Nubia lived in Colombia until she was 17, then headed to Canada for three years. Here she made her first painting – a bouquet of flowers for her mother for Mother’s Day. From there, she lived in California for 18 years  and earned a bachelor’s degree in business marketing, heeding the words of a nay­sayer who told her she wouldn’t be able to make a living as an artist. She continued to practiced art, however, as she still wanted to study and be a working artist. Nubia had her children at this time and was able to stay home with them. When they went to preschool, she took the opportunity to take college art classes and earned a certification to teach art. She also joined art leagues and had solo exhibitions.

Nubia feels teaching children in her classes was one of the best experiences she’s had. “My free-spirited students were my biggest inspiration to become a successful artist. They taught me to be ready for adventure and discovery.”

In 1998, Nubia next took the opportunity to go to Indonesia for five and a half years and brought her husband and children with her. She met an accomplished artist named Hanafi who invited her to use his studio.

She continued painting primarily landscapes and florals in Indonesia and exhibited her work, but began to feel that representational art was not fulfilling. “I realized I was merely copying nature filtered through my heart onto the canvas, and there was too much judging if it was right.” She started to draw on her own creativity in making colors and shapes and found meaning in abstract art.

“Abstract means something that isn’t recognizable yet it communicates something in infinite interpretations. And that’s what I love so much – everyone will see something different,” Nubia says.

Nubia left Indonesia knowing that Hanafi’s supportiveness had been pivotal for her. “I thought ‘that’s what I want to be like.’ Art’s not just about fame and money, it’s about what art is and how you can help others.” In early 2016 Nubia arranged with the the Consulate of Indonesia and the Ministry of Culture and Arts in Indonesia to bring Hanafi to the United States for the first time in his life. The cultural exchange included an exhibition of his work at the Institute for Hispanic Culture in Houston; this led to her mentor having an exhibition in New York City in 2017.

She continues to create opportunities for other artists to gain exposure. Nubia is working to secure a venue for an exhibition of 23 Houston-area Latin American artists originally scheduled for September 2017; Hurricane Harvey damaged  Houston’s City Hall tunnel exhibition gallery where it was to take place.

Nubia has also inspired artists through her YouTube video seen by more than 370,000 people worldwide. She carries on conversations in the comments with people, mentoring them about topics such as the techniques and business of art. One woman who contacted Nubia after seeing the video is Indian photojournalist Nabarupa Bhattacharjee. With Nubia’s encouragement, she is now in Houston as part of artist John Palmer’s juried Escapist Mentoring Program. “The biggest gift that art has given me is to give a gift to someone else,” Nubia said. “In turn I want her to offer opportunities for other artists.”

With her travels and other commitments, having the time to get into the studio is Nubia’s biggest challenge in creating art. “Painting in itself doesn’t represent a challenge because it’s the most sacred moment in my life – it’s the moment when I’m open for anything.”

Nubia doesn’t limit herself in the studio to creating one artwork at a time. Instead she creates three or more at a time that will be similar but unique. She works with instrumental music in the background and lays canvases on the floor so she can approach them from all angles. She has a penchant for working in series, which include Connections, Panorama, Window of Opportunity andPassages, which came about from her fascination of doorways and what discoveries they lead to.

When Nubia starts painting, she doesn’t necessarily have an image in mind. She begins playing with colors, spraying water on the canvas to keep paint moving fluidly. “At this point it’s about being able to detach myself from the outcome. This is the adventure.”

Blank canvases don’t stay that way for long. As a way to create background and texture – and to save paint – Nubia “cleans” her brushes on white canvases before she puts them away. “I never start with a white canvas – it’s already broken in.”

She has left canvases sit for months or even years, waiting for them to speak to her. “It’s part of my process to leave the painting simmering so that next time I see it, it’s a totally new experience.” There’s no such thing as a bad painting, only works in progress that will eventually please Nubia. When it feels just right to look at, she knows the work is complete.

She wants her paintings to speak to the souls of people who look at them. “I don’t create a painting as an accessory or to match their couch –  I want it to be an important asset in their environment that is meaningful to them.” Nubia welcomes visitors to her studio, especially children.

To Nubia, art is about more than making a living. “When you make art with passion and love, art loves you back and gives you opportunities and experiences that are priceless,” she says.

“I’ve had so many opportunities in my life. For me, every day is a surprise.”

Visit nubiagala.com to learn more about the artist.

Line Study I, 30×48, acrylic on canvas. (Photo – Nabarupa Bhattacharjee)

Artist Nubia Gala stands with her works (left) Energy in Redand (right) Music Through the Senses. (Photo – Mara Soloway)

Tricolor, 40×38, acrylic on canvas. (Photo – Nabarupa Bhattacharjee)

Journey II, 48×60, acrylic on canvas. (Photo – Nabarupa Bhattacharjee)

Connections XV, 48×60, acrylic on canvas. (Photo – Nabarupa Bhattacharjee)

Nubia works in her studio on several paintings at at time. (Photo – Nabarupa Bhattacharjee)

Freedom USA, 36×48, acrylic and mix media on canvas. (Photo -Nabarupa Bhattacharjee)

Connections XI , 48×60, Acrylic on canvas, (yellow with red) (Photo – Nabarupa Bhattacharjee)

Energy in Red, 48×60 , acrylic on canvas. (Photo – Nabarupa Bhattacharjee)

Nubia puts inspiration on canvas. (Photo – Mara Soloway)

Line Study II, 30×48, acrylic on canvas. (Photo – Nabarupa Bhattacharjee)

Journey I, 48×60, acrylic on canvas. (Photo – Nabarupa Bhattacharjee)

Windows of Opportunity XXII, 48×68, acrylic on canvas. (Photo – Nabarupa Bhattacharjee)

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