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Columbus Make Art Presents AiNa TuRiaga and COSI’s Unseen Oceans Exhibition

Jaclyn Reynolds Jaclyn Reynolds Columbus Make Art Presents AiNa TuRiaga and COSI’s Unseen Oceans ExhibitionA special art exhibit paired with Unseen Oceans at COSI. Photo by Robb McCormick.
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As part of COSI’s latest exhibition from the American Museum of Natural History, Unseen Oceans, local artists were encouraged to submit their work for a chance to be showcased outside the exhibition. Thirty-two pieces of art, including six pieces of 3D art made from found materials, were crafted with the theme “Mysteries of the Deep” in mind and are currently on display.

Local artist, AiNa TuRiaga, won the adult category of the contest with a painting titled, “Whale.” We had a chance to catch up with AiNa and ask a few questions.

Jaclyn: What inspired you to enter the art contest at COSI?
AiNa: I figured it’s too amazing of an opportunity to pass up, and since I love painting whales I decided to just go ahead and join.

Jaclyn: What inspires your art in general?
AiNa: My inspirations come from a number of things. From dreams and imagination to childhood memories, from my love of black and white photography and comics, to some of my favorite films. One of my favorite subjects to paint is Count Orlok from the 1922 German Expressionist horror film, directed by F. W. Murnau called “Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror.” It’s one of my favorite films of all time;, I find that and other silent, black and white films very amusing. I also love painting rabbits and bears dressed as some my favorite characters. I once painted a piece called “Bear-ward Scissorhands” -— inspired by, who else, Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands,” and it was a part of a series of monsters I did for a show at Pies & Pints in the Short North. I also get a lot of inspiration from children’s books, and I have a dozen different interpretations of the book “Alice in Wonderland“.

Whale by AiNa TuRiaga on display with COSI's Unseen Oceans.
AiNa TuRiaga’s piece ‘Whale’ for Unseen Oceans

Jaclyn: What inspired this piece in particular?
AiNa: Whales are my favorite marine mammals. They are humongous!  The only time I ever saw one up close was in a dream, and if I ever come close to one in person, it will definitely scare me.  But what’s not to love? I find whales very beautiful and they make all kinds of sounds which I think is really cool. I have a collection of whale animal toys.

Jaclyn: Tell us a little bit about your process when creating pieces.
AiNa: I’m a procrastinator! I work better under pressure. If you give me a year or months to work for a show, there would be plenty of framed blank watercolor papers on display. But usually if I’m preparing for a show I will pick a theme, like the one show I had at Rehab Tavern in 2016 called RED, where I did a series of characters inspired by children’s books. My process usually starts with sketching right on the watercolor paper itself with a very light pencil. I hardly use a sketchbook since I find it very annoying transferring the image because it doesn’t always come out right. Once I’m happy with an image, I would ink parts of it using a calligraphy pen and black Indian ink.

artist AiNa TuRiaga
AiNa TuRiaga.

Lately, I have been enjoying how the ink reacts with water, so while the ink is still wet I will grab a watercolor brush and start painting with colors I choose, blending the black ink and the watercolor together. Some of my recent works have very muted colors. I’ve been using a lot of greens lately, and sometimes my work is just black and white with a pop of red. Diamine Oxblood is my favorite!

Jaclyn: The art contest at COSI was open to all ages. What advice can you give to aspiring artists?
AiNa: “No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to start anything you put your heart, mind and soul into.”

When I first got into art back in 2012, I did a lot of volunteering for a group called CloudHaus. I wasn’t creating then. I wasn’t one of those kids who would draw all the time, and if I did, I was too shy to show it to anyone and I would just hide it or get rid of it. I still sometimes do that. When I learned about the Columbus art community, I started going to other people’s art shows and group shows and it inspired me a lot. I wanted to be an artist, and I was 40 years old! I started painting in 2015, and I chose watercolor because it was something I did in grade school but I remember it being so hard to learn, the color mixing, etc., but I wanted to overcome that fear. I, of course, didn’t know what I was doing when I started. It was all a learning process. And my eccentricities when it comes to my art and subjects, I wasn’t sure how people would react to my work, I just paint what I want and I figured people would either love it or not. Now, the question I get all the time is, “Have you ever thought about making children’s books?”

Jaclyn: What makes living as an artist in Columbus so special?
AiNa: Living in Columbus as an artist is amazing. There are art groups you can join, a lot of studios around you can try and get into, and a lot of restaurants, bars, and even salons that will give you opportunities to show your work, sometimes even with no commission, and then you can work your way into some of the galleries in Short North. You meet a lot of other artists and you become part of a great art community, like in Franklinton. There are so many opportunities here in Columbus, whether you’re an aspiring artist or having Columbus as your new hometown. 

Jaclyn: If you could only listen to one album while working on your art, what would it be?
AiNa: This is a tough question because it really depends on my mood, but there is one album in particular I would always go back to and it’s Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” I first heard this album when I was still in the Philippines, where I was born and raised. I was eight years old. My dad was a marine engineer and when he was here in the States, someone gave this record to him and I don’t think he knew what he was getting into. We listened to it, and I remember looking at the art cover and thinking how weird it was, and automatically fell in love with its music and art. 

Unseen Oceans artwork on display at COSI
On display outside of Unseen Oceans at COSI. Photo by Robb McCormick.

See AiNa TuRiaga’s work outside of Unseen Oceans, now open at COSI through February 2, 2020. For more information visit cosi.org. AiNa’s next show will be at the Columbus Oddities and Curiosities Expo on May 9, 2020 at the Ohio State Fairgrounds.

Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art and sharing information about exhibitions, performances, concerts and more at ColumbusMakesArt.com. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.

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