Photo by: Aaron Fludd
The young woman’s face seems to say it all. Deep in thought and staring into undisclosed oblivion, she’s aloof to all that surrounds her. Her focused eyes do not seem to ask any questions. Instead, they embody reflection, fully contemplating on it all. Words, digitally imposed on the page, attempt to ask why, but are afterthoughts intertwined with jagged shapes. Evoking a kind of everyday surrealism, Chicago native Nina Palumbo’s painting titled “My Beauty, My Body,” reminds me of my need to meditate, to step away from the noise and embrace raw beauty and uncensored thoughts.
As an illustrator, painter and a musician, Palumbo’s art captures everyday people and situations with an artistic lyricism. With each glance, wonder occupies the mind but ironically, “why” is not the question. Sharing thoughts from her sketchbook on Instagram, she writes, “Why? is such a grave & fragile concept. A notion only as great & complicated as [its] context is vague. Consistently ask ‘why’ to something as broad as life or even love and your whole way of thinking becomes a toxic and dangerous pattern.” As if taking the advice of her unspoken thoughts, the subjects of her art depict aftermaths of life. Unaware of the reasons why, viewers, like myself are left contemplating. One particular follower responded with his own personal reflections, contemplating on the overwhelming effects of wanting to know why. “My whole life my biggest enemy was was my dangerous toxic thinking patterns,” he wrote. Palumbo’s artistic meditations, illustrated through her art, writings, and music, encourage others to reflect on the intricate balance of cause and effect.
Where Palumbo plays with texture and form, I am reminded of my own emotional skin, some days soft and fragile, and on others resilient and abstruse. Her inclusion of digital media such as vector graphics, computer generated text and other modern design elements makes me wonder about the effects of technology. In what ways am I, like the subjects of her art, altered by nontraditional people boasting of nontraditional ideas? Profiles of renowned writer Charles Bukowski and legendary psychiatrist Carl Jung, intricately sketched with great detail, lure me into thinking about the quirks and habits of those surrounding me. Her varied, yet limited use of color resonates with the amount of risk individuals are willing to take. The somber faces depicted in her blue and red digital paintings of “Dane” and “Ellen” makes one wonder what happens to individuals overcome with shame and sadness. Their uncertain eyes, very much like our own eyes from time to time, question life’s circumstances. Her self portrait makes me wonder who she is and her artistic journey.
According to Behance, a platform for artists to share and discover work, Nina Palumbo is “a woman of many passions including graphic novels, writing, fine art, literature, and making music.” A graduate of The American Academy of Art, she is as much of a musician as she is an illustrator. She also paints. Following her passion for design as well, she offers a lot of merchandise on her site, all of which are inspired by her paintings and sketches. Drawn to exposing the contrasting richness of various textures, she is prone to experiment with various aspects of her work. But if you ask me, she’s an artist, painter, illustrator, designer and musician whose work has the ability to guide others in artistic meditation. Her abstract process of creating resonates with the abstract rhythms of life. Still based in Chicago, Palumbo works at Munro Campaign Artist Representatives with the hope of becoming an Art Director.
Like surrealism, Palumbo’s artistry requires a sort of letting go. Her art is less about the why and more about experience and the effects of imagination: “raw beauty, uncensored,” as it says on her website. In the midst of life’s go, go, go, Palumbo’s work is a chance to sit still. Whether sipping your favorite beverage out of a mug with one of her prints on it, or laying on a pillow created out of her art, Nina Palumbo invites you contemplate and to consider life’s after effects. Besides, as writer Saul Bellow says, “What is art but a way of seeing?” Lucky for us, we can stare at her art and listen to her music at the same time.