Michelle Sakhai began to express herself with a paintbrush the moment she was old enough to hold a brush. This classically trained plein-air painter turned abstract art enthusiast showers us all with the blessing of her talent and her intuitive nature. She truly understands art’s ability to heal and transform. When she isn’t busy in her studio, she’s giving back and tapping deeper into her innate awareness of the spiritual side of life. I’m so lucky to have her as a client! I had a moment to sit down with her and finally get to extract some details from this marvelous and joyful talent about her inspiration, her process and what’s next.
As I understand it you are a classically trained artist with both a B.A. and a M.F.A. from reputable universities. When did your artistic endeavors begin?
As a child I was fortunate to travel the world. Having a mixed cultural background, Persian father and Japanese mother, encouraged me to be a global citizen at a young age. That experience influenced my curiosity and I was painting as soon as I was old enough to hold a brush. I have fond memories of visiting my grandparents on the coast of Niigata were I was captivated by the Black Sea, the mountains and the simplicity of Japanese art.
What made you choose oil and metal leaf as your medium?
It was an organic shift. At age six I was experimenting with watercolors and by thirteen I was deep into oil paints. Metal leaf came later in life when I was receiving my MFA in San Francisco and painting very large landscapes. I experimented with the gold leaf to depict light in my pieces. I also began studying old Japanese woodblock prints, Ukiyo-e. I began to play with the ancient techniques as well as the new and it developed slowly into the techniques you see today.
Are there any other mediums or types of art that you enjoy playing with in your time off as a hobby?
Theatre is another passion of mine. I’m currently co-producing a broadway show which will debut in 2023.
When you aren't creating art how do you fill your spare time?
I rarely have spare time! When I have those moments of space I fill them with the arts and traveling. I also take pleasure in making time for quiet reflection and meditation.
Who is your biggest inspiration? Why?
Michael Jackson. His enormous creative spirit has always been an inspiration to me; and how he was a music genius has inspired and influenced the entire world, bringing all types of people together.
Tell me more about your latest exhibition, The Arcana Series, Interpretations of the Tarot. Why did you choose the tarot as your subject matter?
It was a very organic natural process and I came to it gradually by painting one card and that opened the doorway for all the others.
Major Arcana Tarot cards represent the life lessons, karmic influences and the big archetypal themes that influence our life and soul’s journey to enlightenment. Tarot cards help guide and find answers to your most important questions in life. I created my own version of each Major Arcana card translating it using my personal vision of their meaning and imagery, while honoring the sacred interpretation of the original cards. I believe we live in a modern era and the cards could benefit from an updated rendition. My intention behind re-creating them is to both connect us back to the source and the higher power, bringing healing to those who feel a connection with Tarot.
You believe art has the ability to heal. Could you tell me more about this belief and perhaps provide some examples?
I believe that art offers healing. Both to the artist and each viewer. When I connect with a deeper part within myself as I paint, I believe that this translates to those who enjoy my work. My hope is that each viewer connects with their own inner consciousness as a result of experiencing my process. I believe we are here to transform our souls.
As healing and hope fuels my process, it also inspires me to help others. I teach art to children patients at the Harlem Hospital through Art Works Foundation. There I can see the dramatic affect being creative and painting has on people.
You also have studied Reiki and Sound Healing. Could tell me what led you to these practices? Do you use any of the practices you learned in your daily life?
Absolutely. It’s all a part of me, my daily practice and my work. I reiki myself and my art. I think being on a spiritual path led me to these practices and I don’t remember what practice came first- perhaps meditation…but they are all related and forms of healing oneself.
If you weren't a contemporary abstract artist what would you like to do as a career? Why?
I believe I’m doing what I’m meant to do. If I wasn’t using paint as a medium, I would be using another creative medium, still in the creative field. My art offers you a glimpse into how I see the world, which is how I see within. I’m an artist whether I like it or not.
What has been your experience working with Bubblegum and Duct Tape? Would you recommend my services to other artists or creatives? Why?
Yes! I would definitely recommend you to other artists. Working with you has been great. As a creative, my focus sometimes goes more into my art and this coaching process has given me the opportunity to look at my work in a different way. You have a lot of experience and I trust your insight.
You can learn more about Michelle Sakhai and her beautiful work on her website.