Five years ago, Calida Garcia Rawles learned to swim by joining a team dedicated to the exercise. The sessions were “therapeutic and spiritually uplifting,” the Los Angeles-based artist shares with Colossal. “I found that I felt emotionally lighter after leaving the pool, no matter what issues I was working out before I jumped into the water. This led me to begin using water as a visual language… a way to heal and address difficult and divisive issues.”
Through a serene body of work, Rawles renders figures floating through bright blue waters. Generally outfitted in white or pastel, the subjects are surrounded by glinting ripples and bubbles. “When I am in the water and I see the light glistening off of it in certain ways… it just looks so magical. The way the body appears to break, splinter, and flow in moving water appears other-worldly to me,” she says.
Beginning with research, reading, and the occasional interview, the artist searches for subjects, who then are submerged in water and captured through hundreds of photographs. “It’s kind of like quilting… with the images. I use this as a springboard to start the paintings,” she says. Rawles gleans concepts of the supernatural from writers like Octavia Butler and Ta-Nehisi Coates—who in 2019, released his first novel, The Water Dancer, which features Rawles’s work on the cover—that inform the ethereal qualities of her paintings.
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