Watch & Listen to this podcast Episode.
This week on Arts to Hearts Podcast, our host Charuka Arora has the pleasure of sitting down with Ali Hval who was the Emerging Woman Artist Award Winner 2023 edition. Ali is a visual artist in Iowa who deals with fabric, installation, ceramic, and painting. Her interest in adornment and the politicization of the body is reflected through the forms and materials she uses in her artworks.
In this week’s episode, Ali talks about how she became an artist, what inspires her art, and how she was able to navigate her career. From painting as a young girl to going to grad school to finally starting her own art career, Ali always had a rebellious nature where she looked at the world in a different light. In many ways, her art challenges the traditional feminine and masculine dichotomy. With her pom-poms, glitters, chains, and locks, she is combining different elements and is redefining the spectrum that aims to put people in boxes.
Just like other artists, balancing creativity and art has been a struggle for Ali. Being an avid muralist, Ali has completed over 40 projects in various communities across the country, projects that have provided her the financial stability she needs. However, combining her style with her murals has been a challenge for her, something she is still figuring out.
Ali also touches on the subject of being the winner of the ATH emerging artist award, and how she feels about the entire process. She links it with her disappointments and rejections in the past, and how everything in her life has led her to this moment, for which she is truly grateful.
To find out more about Ali and how she found her niche and dealt with challenges as an artist, tune in to this week’s ATH podcast. Learn how your art style makes you unique and how you can use it to your advantage!
|00:00||Fear of others misinterpreting her artwork.|
|00:31||Encouragement from parents to pursue art.|
|00:47||Celebrating femininity while acknowledging other aspects.|
|01:02||Introduction to the Emerging Women Artists Award 2023.|
|01:38||Prizes and opportunities for winners of the award.|
|02:54||Deadline for submissions to the award.|
|03:14||Contact information for more details about the award.|
|03:35||Interview with Ali, winner of the 2023 Summer Edition Award.|
|03:56||Discussion on the bold and feminine nature of Ali’s work.|
|05:46||Ali’s lifelong desire to be an artist.|
|11:45||Transitioning from painting to sculpture, using similar marks.|
|12:21||Struggling with making work messier, embracing precision instead.|
|13:13||Finding fulfillment in making the right kind of work.|
|13:49||Challenges of balancing mural painting and studio practice.|
|15:17||Wanting to bring studio practice into mural work.|
|15:55||Desire to bring more feminist messages into mural painting.|
|16:30||Advice: Get used to rejection, find your niche.|
|17:07||Finding niche through writing and identifying recurring themes.|
|18:00||Using writing to understand keywords and conceptual topics.|
|19:14||Learning more about oneself through interviews and self-reflection.|
|22:12||Creating paintings by combining different elements like trying on clothing.|
|23:00||Exploring the energetic feeling of being a woman through embroidery.|
|24:09||Dressing the artwork like dressing a Maharani (queen).|
|25:00||Using unconventional materials like rhinestones and pom poms in artwork.|
|25:17||Discussing the process of identifying opportunities as an artist.|
|26:07||Budgeting application fees and being scrappy with funds.|
|27:55||Taking time to tailor and refine application submissions.|
|29:07||Overcoming rejection and turning it into a celebration.|
|30:27||Recognizing when your work is ready for an opportunity.|
|31:36||The importance of presenting work professionally and well-photographed.|
|33:17||Importance of being scrappy and learning from rejections|
|35:39||Knowing your competition and aligning goals for success|
|36:11||Rejection can lead to better opportunities|
|37:05||Applying and persisting can lead to recognition|
|37:39||Benefits of applying to the award and mentorship program|
|39:20||Encouragement to apply to the award|
|40:44||Positive experience with the organization and resources provided|
|42:09||Ali’s upcoming solo museum exhibition in Alabama|
|43:51||Appreciation for the conversation and collaboration|
|44:08||Links to Ali’s work and award submission provided in show notes|
**** – (): [00:00 – 00:15] Tell me something, once you started making these works, did you have any of your own fears and innovations when it came to like, you know, changing your, like changing your path in the sense of moving to a path that feels more natural to you? I always have this fear in my head that
**** – (): [00:15 – 00:31] I’m going to be choosing an object and somebody is going to be interpreting it the wrong way. Somebody else might see that and be like, oh, she’s trying to talk about XYZ and sometimes I’m not trying to talk about XYZ. Oh, I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I was drawing in the
**** – (): [00:31 – 00:46] street with chalk, making unicorns and parking lots and all sorts of things since I was very, very young. My parents always encouraged it. I think I had a very rare situation in that growing up, my parents actually wanted me to be an artist. My work, it celebrates the feminine,
**** – (): [00:47 – 01:02] but it also acknowledges that you can be other things. Hey you, are you an emerging woman artist? Ready to take your work on a global stage? Want to get spotlight and resources to elevate your
**** – (): [01:02 – 01:20] career to the next level? We’ve got just something for you. Introducing the Emerging Women Artists Award 2023 for Lidocean by Arts2Hearts Project. An extraordinary opportunity for women in the arts to showcase their brilliance and to be supported in their creative journey further. If you’re
**** – (): [01:20 – 01:37] creating paintings, sculptures, mixed media or new media, you’re eligible to enter this award. If you have more questions about the eligibility for this award, make sure you send us an email at info at the red arts2heartsproject.com or simply DM, submit on Arts2Hearts Project Instagram.
**** – (): [01:38 – 01:56] So prizes, oh my God, they’re absolutely amazing. Let me get started. For a first prize winner, we have an absolutely amazing package that awaits you. From including a cash prize of $300 to a physical award that will be sent to you to an exclusive series of mentorship calls with
**** – (): [01:56 – 02:17] the industry experts like Asher Longshaw, Liz Lidgett and many more. That is what if we are just getting started with. Not only that, the winner will also get an exclusive interview on this very podcast with me on the Arts2Hearts podcast and an opportunity to be published in
**** – (): [02:17 – 02:33] the studio visit book, one of our favorite projects and an exhibition opportunity of a virtual show with BXP Contemporary. The second and the third winners also will enjoy fantastic prizes, including exclusive interviews, mentorship opportunities,
**** – (): [02:34 – 02:54] ATH directory listing, which all of in itself is over $2,000, $3,000 plus we’re giving you so many more resources to get you started elevating your creative career so that you get the visibility you deserve. Don’t miss this chance to have your art be recognized globally,
**** – (): [02:54 – 03:14] to put yourself in a global art contemporary scene. The submissions close on 8th of November, 2023, midnight EST. Apply now to the Emerging Artists Award 2023 for all duration and we hope to see you thrive in your creative career like nobody else. Visit our website to learn more about
**** – (): [03:14 – 03:35] the award and how you can be a part of this amazing opportunity. To also know more, you can simply DM, submit to Arts2Hearts projects Instagram and we’ll be there to host you. Welcome back to the Arts2Hearts podcast. Thank you so much for having me here.
**** – (): [03:35 – 03:56] It is truly my pleasure. Ali, I’m very excited because I saw your work and I was, I really, really enjoyed it and you were also the winner of the Emerging Artists 2023 Summer Edition Award. I think what really stuck to me was a how feminine but also how masculine your work was like
**** – (): [03:56 – 04:17] it was so bold and strong and statement-ish but also like it was, it was feminine and it was sparkly and it was embroidery and if anything I am a fan of embroideries and all of that. Tell me something, what is your work about? I really want to, you know, I want listeners to
**** – (): [04:17 – 04:36] listen about that. My work is about like me on my journey as I am coming from the Southern United States and growing up with that perspective and so growing up in the Southern United States, women are really told that they are supposed to act a certain way, dress a certain way and just
**** – (): [04:36 – 04:52] be a certain way and so I was really not into that idea and when I moved to Iowa during grad school, I started to retaliate against that a little bit. This idea of like there’s only one certain way
**** – (): [04:52 – 05:12] to be and so my work, it celebrates the feminine but it also acknowledges that you can be other things and so when you’re talking about there being really masculine elements in it, you know, I use motifs like chains and locks and really heavy industrial things and those are sort of
**** – (): [05:12 – 05:28] this one side of the spectrum and then you have this other side of the spectrum which is like pom-poms and I use nail polish and rhinestones and glitter and so there’s this real duality of these two things and kind of acknowledging that there’s a spectrum between those. I love that and
**** – (): [05:28 – 05:46] I think that is what really resonated with me in the sense of, I think it had that on the face boldness but also the subtleness and the femininity of like, you know, you have like when I look at your work, I felt like there is a message I would want to like, I need to hear that, what is it
**** – (): [05:46 – 06:03] trying to say because I felt like there is something that it’s trying to say. Tell me something, did you always wanted to become an artist? Oh, I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I was drawing in the street with chalk, making unicorns and parking lots and all sorts of things since I was very, very young
**** – (): [06:03 – 06:20] and my parents always encouraged it. I think I had a very rare situation in that growing up, my parents actually wanted me to be an artist. They saw how much joy it brought me, they saw, yeah, they are, it’s incredible. I know like you don’t usually hear that, usually parents are pushing their kids to be
**** – (): [06:20 – 06:41] a doctor, scientist or you know something else. And specifically, I think when you’re talking about women expected to play certain roles and you know, you sharing that experience, I think coming from a setup like that because I understand I’ve been born and brought up in India, a very patriarchal setup where women are expected so much in so many certain ways,
**** – (): [06:41 – 07:01] apart from you know, what just they want to be. So I completely understand. So how has your journey been? How have you navigated yourself from that point to where you are right now? So after undergrad, I was a Wingate fellow for a year and so that really helped me make a bunch
**** – (): [07:01 – 07:21] of work that I wanted to. So I was working with fabric, I started making work that was more sculptural and then from there I moved. Oh, how far back are we talking? Are we talking like seven years old or are we talking like? No, okay. Tell me, like once you started to like
**** – (): [07:21 – 07:38] take things seriously, have your, let’s say, degree in the arts or like, you know, at that point, I think I’m just trying to, I mean, I’m just assuming, but a lot of times where people go in traditional art schools, it’s like, you know, you’re being a painter. I think a lot of
**** – (): [07:38 – 07:58] art schools at the centre are focused on making painters and then, you know, people find their voices and, you know, break out that mould where your work is very different from traditional painting and, you know, so were you someone who really like, like the work that you’re showing,
**** – (): [07:58 – 08:16] like it’s like a rebel? Did you have that rebel in the beginning as well and you were finding, like doing this or you found your way through that? Yeah, so in undergrad, I started off as a painter. So I was really committed to just making paintings and I took a course that really
**** – (): [08:16 – 08:35] challenged that. So one of the assignments that we had to do was based on making something ephemeral. And so for that, I ended up doing a performance and there was actually a period of time where I was really invested in doing performative art and making these really elaborate costumes when I was an undergrad. And so that’s sort of what started me onto this path
**** – (): [08:35 – 08:51] of thinking about, well, maybe I’m not making, maybe I’m not doing performances anymore. Maybe I’m not making garments anymore, but maybe I’m making objects that feel like they’re stand-ins for a body or are performing somehow themselves. Because I realised in undergrad, I actually don’t
**** – (): [08:51 – 09:08] like doing performance art that much. Like, I love the idea of it. I love seeing other people be performers, but yeah, I was not the performer. I love the costuming part of it. I love the symbolism behind it and I love how it related to a body, but I didn’t want to actually be doing it.
**** – (): [09:08 – 09:28] And so I did start making these sculptures that resembled like pieces of jewellery or things that people would wear. And so people would make the connection that these are things that people are wearing and think about the effects that they have on them if they were wearing it. Tell me something, once you started making these works, did you have any of your own fears and
**** – (): [09:28 – 09:45] inhibitions when it came to changing your path in the sense of moving to a path that feels more natural to you, but maybe not the traditional path? Yeah, I think it was scary because in my head, like, okay, paintings are so easy to transport. They’re so portable.
**** – (): [09:45 – 10:04] So a lot of it was just like the physicality of the work. Now I make work that is so delicate. Everything is ceramic. There’s tiny little ceramic hoops and ceramic chains and every little thing is so fragile. And so moving it around and shipping it just becomes like another job to like
**** – (): [10:04 – 10:19] maintaining the work that I never had to deal with before with painting. And I think for me, that was the biggest struggle. And also like thinking about, you know, what objects am I representing in my work and what do all of these objects represent? I think I always have this fear
**** – (): [10:19 – 10:34] in my head that I’m going to be choosing an object and somebody is going to be interpreting it the wrong way. Sometimes I just pick objects because they’re in my daily life and I want to incorporate them in there because it’s something I come across, but then somebody else might see that and be like,
**** – (): [10:35 – 10:52] oh, she’s trying to talk about XYZ. And sometimes I’m not trying to talk about XYZ. What I want to ask you is like, you know, moving your work from painting to a new mixed media as an artist, I think every little change, it’s a lot overwhelming, specifically when you’re in the
**** – (): [10:52 – 11:10] beginning. Like, you know, when we’re in the beginning stage of a career, we’re always thinking too much generally, but also too scared of like going into our original selves because we feel like a lot of times we’re being told, okay, this is how you get to be an artist. Just like you told,
**** – (): [11:10 – 11:26] this is how you get to be a woman. Like, you know, being in this very stereotypical image that can be painted on what a successful artist can look like. What is that can be several images of how and what a successful artist looks like, right? So did you have any of those innovations when it came to
**** – (): [11:26 – 11:45] finding your voice? And how did you find your voice? How did you confirm yourself, like confide in yourself, in fact, that, okay, this is something that truly feels real and authentic or something that you’d, that could bring to something? Did you even think like that? Yeah. So starting with the
**** – (): [11:45 – 12:04] first part, you’re talking about like this transition to a new medium. I think for me, like moving to painting the sculpture was, it was very difficult, but at the same time, like I was using a lot of the same marks in the way that I was painting when I was making these sculptures. And so I did a lot of these like wrapping marks. And when I was working in paintings, I did a lot
**** – (): [12:04 – 12:21] of repetition. And so you see a lot of repetition in the sculptures, the early sculptures that I was making versus the paintings that I was making. And that just sort of became more and more elaborate over time. I think that in art school, my professors were sort of trying to push me to
**** – (): [12:21 – 12:38] make my work a little messier. And I knew that that wasn’t me. Like I tried a few things. I, I wasn’t, it wasn’t really working. I tried to like leave some frayed edges on the fabric, but I knew that at my heart, like I needed to be like super anal retentive about everything that I was doing.
**** – (): [12:38 – 12:58] And as I like worked, I just told myself, okay, I’m going to make this work that I want to be making the work that feels right. And the work that felt right was just the work where I was evenly spacing all these little rhinestones, smoothing the surface as much as I possibly could, like just being as precise as I could possibly be. And I think the thing that made
**** – (): [12:58 – 13:13] me realize, yes, I’m making the right work. It’s just like, I’m happy to be in my studio. Like I want to go in my studio and make work. And there have been times when I was experimenting with some other things where I just didn’t want to be in my studio. I thought, oh, this is,
**** – (): [13:14 – 13:32] this is a drag. This is just another thing that I have to do. This is the work that I have to make. If, cause this is the work that people want to see. And like that work wasn’t fulfilling for me because I wasn’t willing to push it. So if I, I know that if I want to go to my studio, if I get excited by making something goofy that maybe doesn’t have that much meaning,
**** – (): [13:32 – 13:49] then that’s okay. Like, you know what, it’s just going to spur me on to make other things that might have more meaning. What have you been your biggest challenges as someone who’s, you know, who is, let’s say in the early years, early to mid years of building the career as an artist.
**** – (): [13:49 – 14:06] And then I will talk about building a career as a woman artist. Does that feel different to you? Also being like, you know, you have your subject matter as being the center as a woman identity. There’s a huge conversation about being an artist, but I personally feel like you’re a platform.
**** – (): [14:06 – 14:27] I truly believe that as women, we have a very different experience and a perspective to what things we, you know, we do. So I want to hear what, let’s start with your own experience on your hurdles, the hard parts, the good parts. Yeah. So besides making the work that I make in
**** – (): [14:27 – 14:43] the studio, these big bedazzled sculptures, I also am a mural painter. And so my mural painting career is really what funds everything else. It’s like the thing that makes me money. But it’s also the thing that takes up a lot of time and a lot of energy because I’m working
**** – (): [14:43 – 15:01] with people. I’m sending a lot of emails, I’m creating designs. And one really big struggle for me with that is just like, I’m not always making the mural designs that I want to be. Like sometimes they’re going to be in a small town in Iowa. They’re going to be highly rendered. They’re going to be really specific. They’re going to be about that community
**** – (): [15:01 – 15:17] and it will just have nothing to do with like the work that I’m making in the studio. And so that’s something I’m really trying to balance right now is like learning when to say no, trying to figure out how to like bring my studio practice into that mural practice a little bit
**** – (): [15:17 – 15:37] more because I have brought the mural practice into my studio practice, but I haven’t really brought the studio practice into the mural practice yet. So it’s a great thing to have. It helps me make a lot of money. I feel like I’m really well off that way and I’ve got like financially stable career that way, but then it’s hard because you’re sacrificing a lot.
**** – (): [15:38 – 15:55] And so that for me is difficult. And especially as a woman, like there’s not as many female mural painters, like most of the murals that I see are done by men. And so I feel like my footprint in the messages that I want to be putting out there are not necessarily out there.
**** – (): [15:55 – 16:14] And I would love to be able to bring more of my messages that I have in my work out into the mural sphere. I love that. What are your top three advices, like top three learnings for anyone who is in the beginning stage in an emerging artist that you figured either you were advised
**** – (): [16:14 – 16:29] by someone or you figured by yourself for someone like for an emerging artist to move forward in their careers? Three most important things you wish like you could take somebody’s time with.
**** – (): [16:30 – 16:51] I would say like, just get used to being rejected by everything because you’re going to get a lot of rejection letters in your life. I know a person who’s like, you know, if you’re getting rejected by too many things, that means you’re applying at too many things. So you’re reaching out. That’s yeah, you’re putting yourself out there. But early on, like I got a lot of rejection
**** – (): [16:51 – 17:07] letters. And now I’m seeing more acceptances than rejections. And I also know like where my niche is. And I think like finding your niche is going to be really, really important. The other thing is just finding your niche. How did you do that? Yeah. And how did you do that for yourself? How do you
**** – (): [17:07 – 17:25] suggest what was your experience with this is one of the most difficult topics for artists. They’re like, how do I find a niche? We’ve done a lot of content, even on our editorial and about finding your niche. Let’s hear from you. Yeah. So for me, I think like writing about my
**** – (): [17:25 – 17:44] work a lot has been really helpful because I start to notice keywords and start to notice themes that are popping up. And with those keywords and themes, I’m starting to realize that I do have niches that I fit within, whether I’m thinking about certain conceptual topics, or I’m thinking about just like the way that I’m creating art. And so I know that like, for me,
**** – (): [17:44 – 18:00] I’m like working in many medias. I have like this very pink, frilly aesthetic that I work with. And then I’m thinking about a lot of like really feminist topics in my work. And so, you know, with that, I can really pick and choose the things that I’m applying to that are in tune
**** – (): [18:00 – 18:19] with that. I’m not going to be going out there and applying for opportunities that have anything to do with nature, because, you know, I’m using microplastics in my work. Let’s just be real. I’m using rhinestones and feathers and things like that, like all these ephemera that are kind of reminiscent of fashion and fast fashion. So just finding like that specific thing, writing
**** – (): [18:19 – 18:35] has really helped me. Anytime I can do some kind of interview or article for somebody, like I just save all of that and kind of read through it and really think hard about like, what is my work about? What am I, you know, what am I using? What am I thinking? Yeah, you know, that’s so true.
**** – (): [18:37 – 18:57] So whenever we do a book, we ask our, you know, artists, collaborators, like people, the work that we are featuring. And we are very excited because you are in the volume two of the Studio Visit book as a winner of the Emerging Artists Award. It’s a stunning book. I have it
**** – (): [18:57 – 19:14] here. Just don’t know where, but somewhere here. But I’ll see if I can get one copy. What’s exciting is, you know, every time we ask, and it’s like, I always felt that myself as an
**** – (): [19:14 – 19:35] artist, anytime I do an interview, not only as an artist, but entrepreneur, anything, like, this is the constant feedback we receive, like, sometimes, and I remember one of the feedback we got was, you know, when I applied for this book, I, my goal was to get featured, to get published.
**** – (): [19:35 – 19:52] But now being a part of this entire process, I think my biggest takeaway was, how much I have learned more about myself, while I was, you know, doing the interview while I was answering these questions, because we tend to do a lot of questions that are offbeat,
**** – (): [19:52 – 20:12] that are not just like your bios and statements, we tend to do things like we want to ask you, like, okay, who you are, what you really do. And it was, and I was like, Oh, my God, like, that’s, I’m not alone. Like, I don’t feel like that. Because every time I want to do an interview, I’m like, Wow, I didn’t know that about myself. Or, oh, that is exactly how I put this together.
**** – (): [20:12 – 20:29] Or like, okay, this is my thought. Yeah, you really do, you start to learn about yourself more. And I think that really helps increase your confidence as well. Like, I just noticed the way that I would have given an interview five years ago versus now, like, I feel so much more confident in what I’m speaking about,
**** – (): [20:29 – 20:45] because I really have, just like you said, like, you’ve really dug into it. And you really figure out like, what is the root of this? And like, how am I being reflected in this thing? Thank you so much. I think, also, I think it’s, it comes from both the point when I look at work,
**** – (): [20:46 – 21:01] and I’m a very curious person, probably why I do this job. Because I love asking questions. And I’m asking, like, okay, if you’re doing this, why are you doing this? If you’re doing that, you know, I’m always thinking about, it’s not the outcome, but the process that goes behind that
**** – (): [21:01 – 21:20] outcome. And when, when I used to read books, like I still do, but when I, but I read a lot of our own books. And now, I was like, you know, I like it. I love it. There’s nothing to not like, but I feel like half filled, like, I want to know more about this artist than just their statement,
**** – (): [21:20 – 21:38] like I can read their statement on their website. But what more? How do I feel like this connection of, I don’t know, how do I feel about this? This person? How do I know who she is? Or how do I feel like in that sense of their studio? I think feeling that connect in an artist studios are very good
**** – (): [21:38 – 21:54] and unique feeling. Not everybody can have, like the access to be in an artist studio, but people who have been, or not even in the arts, I think they truly favor it. I was really interested in how you’re talking about the process, because you know, with my
**** – (): [21:54 – 22:12] studio process, like a lot of this is, like the process has become really important to my work in a way that it hasn’t in previous years. So when I’m finding, creating pieces, like I really am thinking about like pulling things from a bunch of different places. And sometimes I don’t have
**** – (): [22:12 – 22:29] an initial idea where I think when I was creating paintings way back when, I felt like I had to have a sketch of something. And now I’m just thinking, well, let’s just make a bunch of different elements and sort of pull those together and see like what we can be creating in here. It feels a lot like trying on clothing.
**** – (): [23:00 – 23:16] I mean, a queen is female, but also it’s like, energetically, I’m not trying to define woman as well, but I’m also trying to see that identity, that energetic feeling of being a woman. And I keep, I’ve written this in so many interviews and so many podcasts also.
**** – (): [23:17 – 23:33] Like when I’m making the work, because I work with embroidery, I feel like, I don’t know how things work, but typically if you see in a movie, but in Indian context also, like, you know, women, so there’s sari, then there’s bindi,
**** – (): [23:33 – 23:49] then there is, there’s jewelry. So there’s a whole process of how an Indian woman looks like and it’s a beautiful process. And like, you know, there’s makeup, like, you know, if you see those screenshots, like those movie shots, where like you’ll see a woman getting dressed from top to bottom.
**** – (): [23:50 – 24:08] And it’s like, for me, when I’m painting and I’m, you know, making work, it’s like, I’m dressing my piece. Like I’m dressing a Maharani. It’s like, you know, giving it that, like, this is this body. Now I’m trying to add a character, soul, a person, I don’t know, something to it.
**** – (): [24:09 – 24:25] Yeah, and I think like too, like, I love what you’re saying about like dressing sort of this body or dressing this form. I mean, I obviously think about the form or the body of the work that I have. And, you know, I start with sort of this naked piece of ceramic that’s fired.
**** – (): [24:25 – 24:42] It’s just bisque fired at a very hot temperature and instead of glazing it, I slowly build it up. So I have like a layer of color and then I’m adding on rhinestones and then I’m adding on pom poms or whatever else, nail polish, like literally using beauty supplies, materials in the work that I’m creating.
**** – (): [24:42 – 24:59] And, you know, sometimes the outfit doesn’t work. So you kind of put it to the side until you can find something else that works with that outfit. And I have a lot of like little pieces just scattered around my studio where they’re starting to work. The outfits are starting to work, but I haven’t found like the right pair of shoes or the right pair of earrings to kind of match with them.
**** – (): [25:00 – 25:16] Amazing. I resonate with that. Okay. Tell me something. When you speak about opportunities, what has your been, of course, you’re the winner of the Emerging Artists 2023 edition.
**** – (): [25:17 – 25:33] I’m going to talk about that. But before that, I also, I think one of the most important question before we talk about the award is also, how do you figure it out? An opportunity is for you. I think this is one of the most, and I have a lot of thoughts about it, but I want to hear from you.
**** – (): [25:34 – 25:51] How do you figure it out as an artist? Okay. I feel like this could be a good opportunity. I could apply to, what are your thoughts in applying to opportunities? How do you budget opportunities? Like, you know, our award has an application fee, like most of us who are not funded
**** – (): [25:51 – 26:06] or does not come from a government support. How do you navigate that part as someone who’s trying to constantly push your work out there? Yeah, I think, you know, budgeting it the same way you’re going to budget anything else and sometimes realizing,
**** – (): [26:07 – 26:22] like, I mean, I wasn’t always making a lot of money painting murals. Like I was adjuncting for three years after grad school and I didn’t have a lot of money and I was living alone in an apartment. I’m in a different situation now, but I think those three years after grad school were really important.
**** – (): [26:22 – 26:39] And so I learned to be just very, very scrappy with the funds that I did have. And I set aside a certain amount of money per month and I said, okay, I can apply to like one or two application fees or use one or two application fees this month. And so I would just set it to be that.
**** – (): [26:39 – 26:55] And that’s kind of what I would do. I would say, I have this much money. I need to find some really specific opportunities that are in line with my work. So kind of thinking back to what we were talking about before with just knowing what your work is about, thinking about the phrases and the keywords that are within your work
**** – (): [27:55 – 27:11] that you can find within these art calls and then just applying for it, just going for it and writing the best thing that you can. I usually don’t apply to something and just type it all out one day and submit it. I like to let it soak. I like to let it marinate a little bit.
**** – (): [27:11 – 27:28] I wanna be thinking about what it is that I’m writing, which can be really hard because sometimes you just wanna like check the thing off the list and have it be done with. But I copy the forms, I put it in Word, I think about it. I make sure that it’s like making sense with everything that I’m thinking about.
**** – (): [27:29 – 27:44] So I do try to like tailor it and make it specific. And I think that’s the hardest thing when you’re applying to these opportunities is just like, sometimes they feel like they can be really similar, but like tweaking a few words here and there can make it that much more specific for you
**** – (): [27:44 – 28:00] and just catch somebody’s eye a little bit more. Yeah, because I feel like there’s a constant, and I understand that because we’ve all been there. We hear back from a lot of artists when they’re not accepted or they’re not a winner
**** – (): [28:00 – 28:16] or something. And it does feel bad to me also because I feel like I know what it feels like. I know I’ve been there, but I also know that as a platform, that’s only like, I wish we could publish books every day
**** – (): [28:16 – 28:32] we could create new books or new opportunities. And it takes like a, I’m sure you’ve seen, you’ve been as a winner, you’ve got a lot of our services and a lot of things that we do within our ecosystem. Like from the ATS directory, we started building your profile
**** – (): [28:32 – 28:48] to having the studio visit book, to doing the podcast, to even sending you the award. Like, you know, it’s such a long, tedious process to making one little thing possible. So, and I wish we could, but this, I think rejection,
**** – (): [28:48 – 29:07] a lot of times artists take it too hard and it feels like it gives them a setback, I think. And it also makes them resent a lot of times in the sense of, I think constantly, I keep hearing about the system is not again, is with us. Like also sometimes artists feel like they’re burnt out
**** – (): [29:07 – 29:23] in the sense of even financially because they’re continually applying to opportunities. So how do you get like someone who’s won an award and an opportunity and you’ve had that even in the past, how do you think has, how did you become smart about it?
**** – (): [29:24 – 29:40] Did you also reach that point? I think I was at that point. I mean, I think I was at that point where I was getting a lot of rejections and I was feeling like really, I wasn’t feeling sour about things. I think I’ve always had pretty good, pretty good like sportsmanship with that,
**** – (): [29:41 – 29:56] with like losing things, I’m used to it. I once heard from a former professor that he has a folder of rejections that he has received. And so he like turned his rejections into almost the celebration. And for some reason that always stuck with me.
**** – (): [29:56 – 30:12] So I have had a pretty positive attitude. Like I know it can be hard when you’re spending a lot of money on things, but there’s also opportunities out there like exhibitions that you can apply to that don’t cost anything. And so sometimes just balancing out the things that you’re paying for and the things
**** – (): [30:12 – 30:27] that don’t cost anything can be really helpful because then you feel less bad that you’re, none of that money is going to waste. And then also just knowing that- And I think importantly measuring if your work is ready for an opportunity, I think often, even as a black woman,
**** – (): [30:27 – 30:46] I feel like I wish this person wouldn’t have applied. Honestly, I don’t know if somebody ever says that, but I really, at some point, because I think artists need to make this judgment. And I feel like sometimes I look at someone’s work and I’m like, I wish this artist applied because I know that their work has good strength.
**** – (): [30:46 – 31:01] And I think it plays both the ways. Sometimes understanding the situation of, and also understanding if you have the resources, I think applying gives you so much clarity about your work.
**** – (): [31:01 – 31:18] If within that process, you ask yourself questions, you ask yourself, am I ready enough? Even as trivial as having your images put together, sometimes we receive horrendous submissions with really good work, but they were just not, their work was there, but as an artist,
**** – (): [31:18 – 31:35] I think they just weren’t there because they didn’t even know how to put their work together and that matters. If you’re not representing, it’s not well-photographed, it cannot be seen as simple as that. So, and there are some, sometimes I see artists, they feel like, oh, I don’t think I’m good for this.
**** – (): [31:36 – 31:51] Or there’s so many questions we continually receive, okay, who’s an emerging artist? And I keep saying, anyone without an age limit who’s in the beginning of their career because there’s so many pre-set notions that we, I think, run by. Yeah, and it’s hard too.
**** – (): [31:52 – 32:08] I mean, me being chosen as an emerging artist feels, I’ve never been called an emerging artist. This is my first time winning any kind of emerging artist award. So it feels so much more real. And it is this weird step, this transition,
**** – (): [32:08 – 32:26] I feel like, into a new phase. Because I’ve had some grants, I’ve had some exhibitions, I had a publication or two, and this is kind of that defining moment where I’m stepping into this new place. And so, I didn’t know that I would have made it here yet. And I think it’s hard to tell when that point is.
**** – (): [32:26 – 32:43] I think there were points when I applied to things that was probably too soon. Like three or four years ago, my work was starting to develop, it was starting to get to a point. But if I was looking at it across the board, it still wasn’t as cohesive as it was now. And at the time, I don’t think I could tell that.
**** – (): [32:43 – 32:58] Now I can definitely look back and see that. And I think a lot of artists who do apply to these sort of things are going to look back and see three years ago, oh, okay, I could have been photographing this better, I could have been talking about the work a little bit better. My ideas were precise.
**** – (): [32:59 – 33:16] I think unless you don’t go to those errors and mistakes and you don’t realize, okay, that’s what I did wrong. And I think why this rejection exercise is so important for all of us is because, and not only as like, even when we reach out for other partnerships, collaborations,
**** – (): [33:17 – 33:32] I’m like, we could have done this better, we could have reached out better. I’m going to make sure that our next pitch is better. You do not get better without being scrappy. That’s also the flip side of it. Because if, and also I think it is confidence building.
**** – (): [33:33 – 33:49] Like if you become too precious about yourself, like, oh, I am like, okay, I’ll reach this point. When you feel ready, sometimes you’ll never feel ready. It’s never going to, the only way to feel ready is to keep going and to keep applying.
**** – (): [33:49 – 34:06] I think one good thing could be for anyone who’s navigating this path is, I think in the sense of competition, I think knowing what kind of competition you would have in this place, really helps you like I have applied
**** – (): [34:06 – 35:22] to so many opportunities, knowing that I may not have, I may not have reached that point, let’s say. But I also know that I want to take my work out there in front of people that, let’s say, I would want them to see. Or also I need to change my race.
**** – (): [35:22 – 35:39] I need to compete with a different set of people. And I want to, even if I’m the last one, I still want to slowly and steadily back up myself. And so I think there’s so many ideas. It truly matters what your individual goal is. And then you navigate, okay, this is where I want to be.
**** – (): [35:39 – 35:55] If I want to be here, this is what I need to do. These are the kinds of projects I want to align myself with. And then you can keep going at it. Yeah, and rejections also are not always terrible. So I mean, sometimes being rejected from something has actually been very good for me,
**** – (): [35:55 – 36:11] not just in the sense that it wasn’t the right opportunity. But for example, I applied to, after grad school, probably like 80 different opportunities. These were murals, these were exhibitions, these were teaching jobs. And I got two interviews and I didn’t get any of them.
**** – (): [36:11 – 36:31] So I got nothing that I applied to. I had all these 80 things. I didn’t apply to any of them. Two weeks later, I get a phone call. Someone’s like, hey, Allie, we saw your work. We want you to paint a mural or we want to pay you $25,000 to paint this mural up in Cedar Rapids, which was whatever, 10 miles north of me.
**** – (): [36:31 – 36:48] I’m like, oh yeah, let me think about it. Of course I want to do it. And so like, they had seen something that I did because I had put myself out there, because I had applied. And had I not done that, and had I just been sad about all these rejections, like I might not have like picked up that phone call.
**** – (): [36:48 – 37:05] I might not have, you know, gone through my spam mail extra. That was really important to me. Like sometimes being rejected means that a better opportunity is going to come your way. Somebody is going to see your work and they’re going to come back to you. So there’s always that bit of it too, is that if you’re applying to something,
**** – (): [37:05 – 37:21] somebody’s seeing it. And if you keep applying to it, they’re going to keep seeing it. They’re going to keep seeing like how your work is evolving and they want to follow that. Yeah. We would have never known about your work had you not applied. You wouldn’t even had this conversation. You wouldn’t even be in the book.
**** – (): [37:22 – 37:39] These series of things that we’re doing together, none of this would have been possible had you not taken that belief in yourself. And I did. And I saw it popped up on someone’s timeline and now we’re here. Okay. How about you share? How about you share your experience
**** – (): [37:39 – 37:56] of applying to the award? Why do you think you did apply to it with all honesty? Who do you think is a good fit? Because we are hosting our fall edition now. And before I go there,
**** – (): [37:56 – 38:13] I really want to say, I wish we had a better, like I think with every award edition, we’re trying to make it better and better. We had a lot of things while we were offering in the first edition, which is why you won. This even gets better because we are bringing everything that we brought for you,
**** – (): [38:13 – 38:29] but we brought a mentorship session program that we built only for emerging artists, award winners. That includes a one-on-one session, winner call with Ashley Longshaw, which is like, I’m like,
**** – (): [38:29 – 38:47] I wish I had it in my career. And a mentorship session with the amazing gallerist, Liz Lidgett from the Liz Lidgett Gallery. She’s been one of the top gallerists in the US now. From that to myself on how to,
**** – (): [38:48 – 39:05] structure your career in the arts as, getting more PR, getting more publishing. And we have a lot of more collaborations that we are announcing, which we’ll get there. We have art queens membership. We have so many exciting things that I feel like,
**** – (): [39:05 – 39:20] oh God, this is such a good deal. Like it truly is a platform. We really want to make this as a platform for someone to take them from X to Y. How do they get that support? Along with the cash award, how do you think,
**** – (): [39:21 – 39:38] how did you find this was a good opportunity for you? And what has been your experience? I would love to hear that. So I found out through Liz Lidgett. So she is over in Des Moines and I’m in Iowa City. Oh, she was in Des Moines. Yep, it’s a two hour drive all the way to Des Moines.
**** – (): [39:39 – 39:56] So I follow her on Instagram. I’ve talked to her before over Zoom. We’ve like, we do know each other a little bit. So that’s how I found out about the opportunity. And as soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to apply because she followed me. So sometimes little cues like that can be helpful.
**** – (): [39:56 – 40:12] Like, oh, I saw this person has followed me on Instagram. Like they’ve taken an interest in my work and then you see that they’re posting an opportunity. Like that’s a good time to jump in and apply for that opportunity. And so I took that and it just so happened to work. So that’s how that sort of connection was made.
**** – (): [40:13 – 40:28] And then just in terms of like my experience with you guys, like it’s been great. I just feel bad that like my internet connection hasn’t been awesome tonight for the most part. But you’ve been very communicative and I really appreciate like all the resources
**** – (): [40:28 – 40:44] that have been sent throughout. And, you know, I have my name up on the roster and like, it’s been great to be thinking about the work that I’m making more as well. So I know we’ve talked a lot about just like the importance of like writing about your work and thinking about the work that you’re making.
**** – (): [40:44 – 40:59] And I’ve been able to do a lot of that with the things that I’m putting for you guys. Would you recommend somebody who’s listening and who’s on the edge? Do I fit in? Do I fit on? Should I apply? Is this for me? What would you say to them? It is for you. It’s for everybody.
**** – (): [40:59 – 41:18] And even if it’s not for you this time, it could be for you in the future. And that’s life. That’s what happens. I love that. Thank you so much. I feel you have such an amazing energy and I’m so glad that we met. We are so happy to have you like as this flag bearer
**** – (): [41:18 – 41:34] of our, like, you know, the first are always special. I feel like there’s so much that we figured out together. There’s so much that we’re structuring together because, you know, once you’re doing, you have a pattern once you’re doing things repetitively. We’ve gotten pretty good at doing things that we’ve been doing over a few years,
**** – (): [41:34 – 41:51] but it’s exciting to do things, new things with new people. That’s been very exciting. We’re very, very grateful to have you. We are also, now I’ll pitch you. We are also having Ali. We have her on the ATH directory, which is on live.
**** – (): [41:52 – 42:09] Ali will also be in the Studio Visit book, Volume Two, which is a stunning, I love that edition. I just am obsessed with the Volume Two edition. The cover is like, yes, it is. I wish I could tell you guys, like I have it. I don’t know where is it, but I have it here.
**** – (): [42:10 – 42:26] But it is so, so, so gorgeous. We have a beautiful spread featuring Ali’s work, her beautiful images, her interview. And this is different from what you’re hearing right now because in that book, we don’t talk about Ali
**** – (): [42:27 – 42:46] and her journey. We, in fact, talk about Ali and her studio. So we’re basically taking a peek inside her studio, what goes inside her head. And it’s like a visual turn in pages within her studio. So I’m very excited for that. Apart from that, we’ll be sharing a photograph
**** – (): [42:46 – 43:03] of Ali and her award very soon. I hope it reaches you very soon. But yeah, thank you so much before I switch for you, things I knew were coming for you. What else have you going on, you want to share with us? Oh, so I have my first solo museum exhibition
**** – (): [43:03 – 43:20] coming up in Alabama. That’s going to be in November. It’s going to be titled Barbie’s Dream House. It’s going to be entirely pink and filled with these sparkly objects. So some of them are like reflective of home decor. And then a lot of them are also like these charm bracelet and jewelry pieces that I’ve been making.
**** – (): [43:20 – 43:36] So I have about two more pieces to finish for that that I’m really excited about. Amazing, thank you so much. And I can’t wait to see you from emerging to the best to, I don’t know, whatever level it reaches,
**** – (): [43:36 – 43:51] but we’re always rooting for you. Thank you so much for trusting with us, sharing your work with us and for collaborating. I think these collaborations mean a lot to me and thank you so much. Yeah, this has been a great conversation. Thank you so much.
**** – (): [43:51 – 44:08] Thank you. And anyone who’s interested, please make sure you go visit, you know, the show notes on the website. We link Ali’s Spread in the Studio visit book, the Atheist Directory link to her work and also the link to submit if you’re interested
**** – (): [44:08 – 44:25] in the Emerging Artists Award 2020 Fall Edition. That is from our end. Thank you everyone who joined us for this episode. If you did like this conversation, make sure you tag me and Ali and let us know what you think about it. And it’s always, always, always so nice
**** – (): [44:25 – 44:38] to hear your own thoughts on things that we’ve spoken about, good and bad. Let us start a conversation that can help all of us. Thank you so much for your time. I hope you all have a good day. Thank you. You have a great day too.
About The Guest(s):
Ali Hval is an emerging artist based in Iowa City, Iowa. She is known for her bold and feminine mixed media sculptures that explore themes of femininity and identity. Ali’s work often incorporates elements of fashion and beauty, using materials such as rhinestones, feathers, and nail polish. She has recently been awarded the Emerging Artists 2023 Summer Edition Award by Arts2Hearts Project.
Ali Hval, an emerging artist based in Iowa City, discusses her journey as an artist and the inspiration behind her work. She talks about the challenges she faced in transitioning from painting to sculpture and finding her unique voice. Ali’s work celebrates femininity while also challenging societal expectations. She shares her experiences with applying to opportunities and the importance of perseverance and self-belief in the face of rejection. Ali also highlights the significance of writing about her work and the process of discovering her niche as an artist.
- Ali Hval’s work celebrates femininity while challenging societal expectations.
- Transitioning from painting to sculpture was a challenge for Ali, but she found her unique voice by embracing precision and attention to detail.
- Applying to opportunities and facing rejection is a normal part of an artist’s journey, and it is important to persevere and learn from each experience.
- Writing about her work and reflecting on keywords and themes helped Ali discover her niche as an artist.
- Rejection can sometimes lead to better opportunities, and it is essential to keep putting oneself out there and evolving as an artist.
- “My work celebrates the feminine but also acknowledges that you can be other things.” – Ali Hval
- “Sometimes being rejected means that a better opportunity is going to come your way.” – Ali Hval
Charuka Arora is the founder of the Arts to Hearts Project and Host of the Arts to Hearts Podcast. She is also an acclaimed Indian artist known for her contemporary embellished paintings. Her unique blend of gouache, collage, embroidery, painting, and drawing explores the intersection of art, culture, heritage, and womanhood. Through her work, she tells stories of female strength and encapsulates them in pieces that can be treasured for generations.
Charuka’s work draws inspiration from Hindu mythology, recognizing women as vessels of Shakti, the cosmic energy. She beautifully portrays powerful goddesses like Durga Maa riding a tiger or lion, symbolizing their unlimited power to protect virtue and combat evil.
Through her art, Charuka invites us into the world of women, showcasing their beauty, strength, and resilience. Her creations not only exhibit exceptional talent but also serve as an inspiration and a symbol of hope for those challenging societal norms.
Arts to Hearts Podcast is a show delving into the lives and passions of renowned artists. From running creative businesses and studio art practices to cultivating a successful mindset, Charuka Arora engages in heartfelt conversations with her guests. Experience your personal happy hour with your favorite artists, right in your studio.
Through candid discussions, Charuka and her guests reveal the joys and challenges of a vibrant creative life, both within and beyond our studios. Get ready to be inspired and uplifted as you tune in.
About the Guest
Ali Hval (she/her) (b. 1993, Sacramento, CA) is a visual artist currently living and working in Iowa City, Iowa. She is currently a Lecturer in Painting and Drawing at the University of Iowa. She earned her MFA from the University of Iowa in Painting and Drawing with honors, and BFA in Painting from the University of Alabama with honors. Her work merges ceramic, fabric, installation, and painting. The forms and materials she uses reflect her interest in adornment and the relentless critique and politicization of the body.
Ali has received grants from the Iowa Arts Council as well as from the nationally competitive Windgate Fellowship by the Center of Craft, Creativity, and Design in Asheville, North Carolina. She was the 2022 Stuart Artist-in-Residence at South Dakota State University, and was a 2020 resident at the Chautauqua School of Art. She has exhibited her work across the country, including at Ceysson y Bénétière in New York City, Site: Brooklyn and Atlantic Gallery in New York, and South Bay Contemporary in Los Angeles. She has had mentions in New York Jewelry Week, CultBytes and The New Yorker.
Also an avid muralist, Ali has completed over 40 public murals and projects in various communities across the US. These murals have ranged from large-scale projects for nonprofits and municipal entities, to projects which have directly involved community members in the painting and designing process.
In our latest Podcast, we listen to Ali Hval talk about challenging boundaries and finding her niche as an artist. For Ali, being an artist was never an option, but an obvious choice. From the tender age of seven, Ali has been painting her heart out, and her parents have supported her inner artist at every step of the way.
I was drawing in the street with chalk, making unicorns and parking lots and all sorts of things since I was very, very young.Ali Hval – Arts to Hearts Podcast E39S03
Breaking the mold and finding her inner voice
Ali’s art is a kind of a rebellion against the idea that you are supposed to act in a certain way. Growing up in Southern United States, this perspective always bothered Ali. So when she moved to Iowa for her grad school, she found a way of going against the current and standing out with her outlook on what art was supposed to look like. With her artwork, which is both bold and feminine, Ali is making a
No one knows what they want to do from the get-go, and similar was the case with Ali. Even when she was doing her degree, she did not instantly know what kind of art she wanted to create. However, inspired by Polly Apfelbuam, she was intrigued with the idea of presenting art off the wall, and so she moved from painting to creating sculptures that resembled pieces of jewelry that people would wear. This transition opened possibilities for Ali, and soon she shifted to creating and then painting sculptures.
Balancing creativity with business
For each one of us, our creation is sacred, and we create in the hope of expressing ourselves. So, while artists wants to be seen and heard, they also want their art to be understood. Ali also finds it important that her art is interpreted the way that it is meant to.
I think I always have this fear in my head that I’m going to be choosing an object and somebody is going to be interpreting it the wrong way.Ali Hval – Arts to Hearts Podcast E39S03
With this constant struggle, Ali also finds another challenge where she has to balance her creativity with the business side of art. As an artist, we want to be able to create whatever we want to, but that does not always bring in the money that is needed to keep the business afloat. For Ali, her murals are a great source of bringing in those funds, but that comes with its own cons. Ali has to manage her studio, while also coordinating with people and creating designs, which, unfortunately, can be time consuming. She has to make sure that her mural designs fit the clients’ preferences, but in the midst of all that, she yearns to bring in her own style as well. On top of everything, the fact that there aren’t many female mural painters is not lost on Ali.
Most of the murals that I see are done by men. And so I feel like my footprint in the messages that I want to be putting out there are not necessarily out there.Ali Hval – Arts to Hearts Podcast E39S03
Finding the balance between what she has to do, and what she wants to do is still something that Ali is navigating presently.
Starting out as an artist and dealing with rejections
Starting a career is never easy, and it always takes time and work to build something from scratch. Once Ali graduated, she had to work hard for years before she could stand on her feet. For her, budgeting was the way to go as she did not have a lot of money as she was living alone. Until she found her footing, she decided to be scrappy with her funds and would set aside a certain amount of money every month. It was the time when she needed to be wise with her decision of where she was going to spend, and how much.
I said, okay, I can apply to like one or two application fees or use one or two application fees this month.
I need to find some really specific opportunities that are in line with my work.Ali Hval – Arts to Hearts Podcast E39S03
For Ali, it was the rejections that have contributed to her success today. While such supposed failures can hurt aspiring artists at the time, they are only part of the journey where something even bigger is waiting for them. Ali recalls a similar incident where she lost an opportunity and was heartbroken. However, losing that job enabled her to accept another project later on that was much bigger than she anticipated.
Being ATH Emerging Artist Award Winner
Ali was named as the winner of ATH emerging artist this year, where Arts to Hearts Project aims to provide an open platform for talented individuals to showcase their incredible work. Ali found about the emerging artist award through fellow gallerist, Liz Lidgett, who had followed her. To Ali, this was a cue and that’s why she encourages other artists to do the same.
So sometimes little cues like that can be helpful. Like, oh, I saw this person has followed me on Instagram. Like they’ve taken an interest in my work and then you see that they’re posting an opportunity.Ali Hval – Arts to Hearts Podcast E39S03
Looking out for such opportunities can work out for you, and even if it doesn’t, hang in there! Ali believes that it is important that you keep trying and putting your art out in the world. Moreover, she also advises other artists to consider submitting their art for the category of ATH Emerging Artist Award.
It is for you. It’s for everybody. And even if it’s not for you this time, it could be for you in the future. And that’s life. That’s what happens.Ali Hval – Arts to Hearts Podcast E39S03
Our Emerging Woman Artist Award is open for all emerging female artists where they get a chance to showcase their work to a larger audience. Not only do these creatives gain recognition for their work, but the winner gets to win a cash prize, a mentorship series of group calls with industry experts, membership in the Art Queens Society and so much more! If you are an up-and-coming woman-identifying artist, you can also enter by submitting your artwork at the link below.
For all the aspiring artists, Ali has one piece of advice, and that is to never lose heart; what is meant to be will happen and all you need to do is keep creating! Ali is on the ATH directory and has also been featured in Studio Visit Book Vol. 2 where we get a peek into her studio. Her first solo museum exhibition is also coming up in Alabama in November. You can look up Ali on her Instagram and website. For Ali, winning the emerging artist award is just the beginning, and we look forward to seeing what she does next!