July 15th, 2022

Nina Tichava in her Santa Fe studio. Photo by Shana Berenzweig.

Mixed media artist Nina Tichava is choosing to focus on the silver linings in life. Somedays this feels more challenging than others; nevertheless, she is choosing to put all of her time and energy into the power artwork as messengers of hope.

Her body of work has long delivered a sense of hopefulness to viewers, whether it be through her natural, soothing color palette, her peaceful, geometric and botanical forms, or even her poetic, often romantic artwork titles. For this exhibition however, Nina Tichava is intentionally imbuing her work with an even greater sense of optimism. This past year has not been easy for the artist or for the world at large, but Nina Tichava is determined to find that ray of light, even if it means creating it herself.

Nina Tichava, “Among the Yellow Foliage,” mixed media, 48″ x 72″

Becoming an artist was not always Nina Tichava’s intention. In school, she did not originally imagine pursuing a degree in art but filled her elective courses with art classes anyways. Soon she realized that the classes that she looked forward to and cherished the most just so happened to be in the arts.

Upon this realization, she then decided to attend an arts school, and got accepted into California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA for Graphic Design. Tichava explains, “I was accepted into the school for graphic design and thought I would go into something practical like that, but I loved my painting and printmaking classes so much that I decided I just didn’t want to pursue the graphic arts. I wanted to try to go for it as a professional artist.” She graduated with a degree in Painting and Drawing with her sights set on graduate school. Upon her professors’ recommendation, however, she decided to wait a year between undergraduate and graduate school to truly reflect on whether or not she wanted to be a professional artist.

In the interim, she decided to move back to her hometown of Santa Fe where she opened her own studio while waitressing part time. She was curious to see just how viable an art career could be. “I thought that I would take a year off and see if I could maintain a practice well thinking about grad school,” Tichava says, “then I started showing my work right away, which is amazing.” 

Nina Tichava stands alongside her work. Photo by Shana Berenzweig.

She then applied for a Pollock-Krasner grant and won. “It was a really big deal,” she remembers, “It was a $10,000 grant, but what it really did was it make it possible for me to ensure that I could pay for my studio for awhile. It made me think that I really could do this.” In waiting to test how viable a career as a professional artist could be, Nina Tichava found herself in the middle of a successful studio art practice. Finding that she could make it as an artist, independent of graduate school, truly encouraged Tichava, and she decided to pursue her studio work and exhibition opportunities in lieu of a Master’s Degree. 

Now Tichava reflects on that decision: “There are things that I definitely missed by not going to grad school, like the community of people. Many artists that I know came up in grad school together and have gone on to do great things. I also lost a lot of the education of grad school, like contemporary art education and art theory, so I’ve had to make up for that in my own time.” Tichava sees the full benefits of a Master’s program in hindsight, but nevertheless, there is a gratification in self-education and in paving her own way. 


“I’m not afraid of spending a lot of time making one thing. When I have an idea of something that I want to make, I don’t think about how long it’s going to take. I just know that I need to make it.”

– Nina Tichava


To supplement what she might have learned in grad school and the connections she might have made, Tichava has sought to surround herself with fellow creatives and now finds living in an arts community to be essential to her studio practice and her life as an artist: “I have always tried to live in places that have really supportive art communities and art networks. I think it’s so important. Fellow artists and art appreciators tend to congregate, and it’s nice to have friends that know what you’re doing and a community that understands what you mean when you say you’re an artist. Like in Santa Fe, there are so many artists that when you say that you’re a professional artist, people really know what that means.”

Nina Tichava in her studio with her new work. Photo by Shana Berenzweig.


Within the arts community of Santa Fe, Nina Tichava has found her people: people who inspire her and her artwork. “I have a lot of photographer friends,” Tichava says, “so I’ve been getting a lot of inspiration from photography and from digital art. I’ve been looking a lot at generative art* because some of the friends that I have are very interested in it. I’m starting to look at digital art in a different way than I ever have before.”

*Generative art is computer-generated artwork guided by algorithms input by a human artist. In some cases, an artist sets parameters or code for the autonomous system, which would then independently create features of the artwork, and in other cases, the autonomous system is considered the creator. 

Tichava is excited by the new, expanding horizon of possibilities that generative art, digital art, and such advances in technology present for the art world and is inspired by her photographer friends who are exploring these possibilities. Through their influence and encouragement, she has begun to dabble in the world of NFT art as well. Tichava elaborates, “I’ve actually had a couple of digital exhibitions, one called NFT Liverpool and another hosted by First Dibs NFTS. I became curious about this world and wanted to have some experience in it.” 


“I hand make every single one of those dots. I make every edge. I consider every inch, and I think that it imbues energy into my work that you can feel.”

– Nina Tichava


Tichava seeks to experiment in this space, more out of an artistic curiosity than anything. Fascinated by the new advances in art creation within this realm, Tichava sees NFT art and the digital space as an exciting new frontier, bringing the art world together on a more global scale and in a more accessible way. “It’s been fun, and I’ve been exposed to a ton of new work that I wouldn’t have access to otherwise. It’s very international. You can see artwork from all over the world. I’m still so much more interested in physical art, but I think there’s room for all these different styles. There’s definitely room for different media.”

Nina Tichava, “Floral in Cobalt,” mixed media, 20″ x 20″

As much as she is inspired by innovative new approaches to art and this new wave of digital art creation, she is just as much inspired by more traditional art making techniques and practitioners. In and around Santa Fe, she is surrounded by both new, contemporary galleries and modern artists and more traditional art galleries and craftsmen. “It’s this wonderful balance,” Tichava says, “on the one side there’s this big contemporary push, which fills me up because that’s something I’d love to be exposed to, and then at the same time there is this very well-established Gallery system and a lot of traditional art like landscape and figurative works that I don’t necessarily make myself but that I like looking at.” 

In Santa Fe, there’s a deep appreciation for traditional art and craft, especially historic and Native American crafts like basket weaving, textiles, beading, ceramic, and more, all of which Tichava finds to be very inspiring. It’s not only a part of the fabric of the town, but of Tichava’s own life as well. Nina Tichava’s mother was a weaver and a beader and taught Tichava these crafts while she was growing up. “She was always making something,” Tichava remembers. Despite working in graphic design and textile design for a local Santa Fe company for years, her mother always considered herself a craftsperson first and foremost. 

These craft influences are readily visible in Tichava’s work. The interwoven linear elements and layers of her paintings are reminiscent of her background in weaving while the hand-painted dots that adorn the surface of her work call to mind the beadwork that made up her adolescence. Each line of dots is still meticulously and painstakingly hand-applied by the artist, a tribute to the patience and care required of any meritable craftsman. “I’m not afraid of spending a lot of time making one thing,” Tichava says, “When I have an idea of something that I want to make, I don’t think about how long it’s going to take — maybe to my own detriment — I just know that I need to make it.” 

Nina Tichava hand applies every dot in her paintings

Oftentimes, friends and visitors to Tichava’s studio will marvel at the time she gives to each individual piece and offer up suggestions for greater efficiency, but to Tichava, this negates the point. “I want to spend the time,” she says, “I want to make it the way that I want to, even if it takes eight hours for one small portion of the painting. To me, It’s more about the discovery that happens while you’re manifesting an idea. That is why I call myself a ‘process painter” — because I don’t know from the onset exactly where that painting is going to go. I hand make every single one of those dots. I make every edge. I consider every inch, and I think that it imbues energy into my work that you can feel.” In this age of instant results and the prioritization of productivity and efficiency, Tichava’s patient, conscientious dedication to craft is a radical act in itself. 

Despite the hours and hours it takes the artist to complete each layer, let alone a complete work of art, she is still quite a prolific artist. “Most of my paintings take weeks or months to complete, so I work on many paintings at once over long periods of time,” she says. Because of the intensity of each stage of her painting, Tichava rotates through her paintings so that she can work in several different stages of a painting in one day. In the morning she may work on a layer of dots on one painting and then, in the afternoon, sketch out the more preliminary gestural work of a new painting before moving on to the mixed media layers of a different work. “It’s why I love shows so much,” Tichava muses, “It gives me an opportunity to have a group of works hanging up all at once that I worked on all at the same time. Even if they’re all together for just a few days, it’s really great to get to see the way the works have a conversation with each other and, sometimes, the way they have a conversation with another artist that you admire. It’s really exciting.” 


Nina Tichava hangs her latest diptych in her studio. Photo by Shana Berenzweig.

Later this month, Nina Tichava’s latest body of work will hang alongside encaustic artist Shawna Moore in their exhibition “Movement Patterns,” opening on July 29th. The title for the show is something that Nina Tichava, Shawna Moore, and Gallery MAR owner Maren Mullin came up with together, to highlight the sense of natural movement and natural pattern within both artists’ work. “I’m super excited to be showing with Shawna Moore because I think she has such a great sensibility with surface and color, which are two of my main interests. The more subtle movement in her work makes me think of water and wind and nature, and she’s working in encaustic, which is so exciting to me.”


“I’m honestly so grateful to Gallery MAR because, not only has Maren been a huge supporter of my work, but she’s been supportive of me as a woman and of me personally. She has made it possible for me to support myself with my painting for almost 15 years now.”

– Nina Tichava


With this new show on the horizon, Tichava has been thinking a lot about movement in her work. “I always tend to try for more lyrical flows through my abstractions, so I think there’s going to be a lot more of that in the show. I have been in a botanically-focused place as well, so a lot of the work I’m making for the show has been botanical in nature, but there’s also geometric and architectural references in my work. 

Nina Tichava, “And Live By Love,” mixed media, 60″ x 42″

Tichava has developed an impressively large and varied body of work that blends new and old worlds, incorporating patiently handcrafted techniques – remnants of the traditional beadwork and weaving of her childhood, while finding new iterations of these techniques inspired by generative work and modern day photography. “I don’t really feel shy about putting it all in the work if I feel like it can be there,” she says.

Her many different sources of inspiration has led to a great variety in her work. Tichava is proud to maintain several different series of works, all in communication with one another. “I started long ago to be able to have different series that I categorize my work by, but I have a lot of diversity in each series just to keep a lot of space for myself to evolve and change but still have a coherence through time. I also give myself permission to experiment and try something new to keep it fresh for my collector base.” 

Nina Tichava in front of her three new works in her Santa Fe studio. Photo by Shana Berenzweig.

Her courage to experiment and be bold she attributes in large part to her gallery relationships.  “I feel very lucky to have gallery support, especially from Gallery MAR. Maren has been very supportive of anything that I want to try. She will always take a chance on me. I think part of that is that she knows her collectors really well, so she knows that there’s an audience for work that is new.” Tichava has been with Gallery MAR since shortly after Maren Mullin first opened her gallery and has loved watching the gallery evolve along with her work. She elaborates: “When I joined Gallery MAR, Maren had only been open for about a year or so, so I’ve watched her grow and expand and become more and more amazing. Her style and her taste has always been there, but I’ve also watched her and her artists grow. It’s been really exciting. I’m honestly so grateful to Gallery MAR because, not only has Maren been a huge supporter of my work, but she’s been supportive of me as a woman and of me personally. She has made it possible for me to support myself with my painting for almost 15 years now.” 

The support that Tichava feels from her galleries like Gallery MAR emboldens her to experiment and to try new things, ever evolving her style as her influences and inspirations develop and change with time. Now she looks forward to this new exhibition at Gallery MAR with eager anticipation, where she gets to share with her beloved collectors and gallery her fresh, new lovingly and patiently hand-crafted beacons of hope. We hope you’ll join us for the artist reception of “Movement Patterns” with Nina Tichava and Shawna Moore on July 28th at Gallery MAR.


Written by Veronica Vale