The Unlimited Possibilities of the Human Spirit

An Exhibit of Diversity, Community, Humanity and Environment

Nova Starling


Art has been my lens to focus on and investigate aspects of the world that interest me. When making my initial career decision, I knew what I wanted most at that time was to understand how things worked and how they were made. That curiosity led me to the functional art & design curriculum and the creation of objects which involved fabrication and casting Metals, also textiles, ceramics, glass, wood and the world of tools, machinery and production processes. My Fine Arts background from WSU in Detroit integrated Western and Asian Art and History resulting in a strong preference for Asian art principles and architecture which eventually led to the recent creation of a Japanese Teahouse and Garden. My MA in Design from UC Berkeley and the California environment encouraged exploration, a more global view of the world and more time in nature.


From there I created 'Designer Jewelry' accessories for the fashion industry. This area of design brought in the emotional aspects of color and form and thoughts about the effects of my designs on the women wearing them. I saw my designs as balancing their inner and outer worlds. I began feeling my art had potential for having more of a voice in another medium and so I began painting.

One example of artistic exploration is a group of Landscape Paintings, where I wanted to express the wonder felt when a beautiful image was seen, capturing the memory. A precise rendering would not have had all the emotion and accumulated experiences brought to that original moment. Memories are really a shorthand, abbreviated information, with heightened intensity of color and emotion. So perhaps by using an abstract style, juxtaposing certain colors and pushing them to a certain intensity I could recreate the vibration of that first flash of awareness and pleasure. Was that the result? I think so. They were certainly spirit lifting to see!


This portrait project began by chance with Ed Moses' portrait. Telling the story of his work in fusion made sense of the nebula in the background. And while developing the composition in Photoshop, I made his layer translucent over the nebula layer in the background. While inspecting it, I zoomed into his eyes at high magnification and was struck by the sight of the stars coming through his eyes from the background.

And at that moment I thought "Wow, this is all of us, we are the universe and it is us, the two fully integrated." The idea, to paint a series of people, visionaries, half men, half women, of diverse cultures whose careers have had global impact and a universal vision of humanity and nature working together to improve the human condition. The idea seemed to come together in a flash. I knew I would paint them as if they were partly translucent emerging from yet fully integrated with the universe, like a constellation. I would use two light sources, one on the body and another on the image representing their focus. I knew their eyes would look above and beyond the viewer in order to take them on the same journey. I knew I would find star formations that I could weave in to the backgrounds to tell their stories . I thought I would be able to put these portraits together as an inspirational package along with resource links on-line so young people could find their own heroes and in the process define themselves.

I searched for 6 more people to fit the profile. I wrote them, detailed my exhibit plans and asked if they were interested in participating in my exhibit. They were all very significant and busy people with remarkable achievements, the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, Life Achievement Awards, headed international organizations and projects of great size. I really didn't expect anyone to reply. They wouldn't know me from anywhere. But they did, within two months. And I thought, 'the doors are opening so easily; I must continue to the end!'

I had internalized much before I even started their portraits. What I learned on meeting my subjects was a sense of their space, mannerisms, energy, nature, tone, presence. I studied their lives, read their books, watched their videos, knew their work and accomplishments. I brought all this information with me when I started their painting. During the process of painting, I studied every subtlety of their facial features, their hands, their posture. By the time the painting was complete I felt I understood them, like a close friend. And in a way that is true, because I felt we were in sync about what is important in life.

What I have learned from this project is that these visionaries have a number of things in common:

  •  focused on their goals

  •  have remarkable energy and perseverance

  •  have a deep sense of professional and social responsibility

  •  value collaboration

  •  are concerned with legacy

  •  have redefined their field

  •  understand the human condition

  •  are not afraid to risk something

  •  are social activists

  •  financial gain was never their driving force.

I tell this story for a young person to know that if they have a dream, one that is not so much about their success but about doing something significant for others, if they keep talking about it, people who can help them achieve that goal will hear them and the doors will open for them. In the meantime, they will meet a lot of really nice people and their sights will be raised higher and higher to the unlimited possibilities of their own life.


© 2019-20 Nova Starling. All rights reserved.