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Life Inspired Art

I began to sincerely make work about vulnerable elements of my own life after a studio visit with a close friend of mine, Zina.  At that time, Zina had been making work about her father and his friends’ lives in Iraq when they were in their youth. Utilizing old photographs and narratives from her father, the paintings were vibrant, and intriguing. Most of all, they radiated an endearment that was palpable. Standing in Zina’s studio that evening, we began to naturally talk about our lives and the inherent inspiration we garner from our experiences as women who’ve had to flee our home countries for relative safety in the USA. In the middle of this conversation, as she is wont to do, Zina turned to me and gave me the very heartfelt criticism that I should begin to make work that was primarily about significant moments in my life.

For a very long time, I made work that was inspired a bit by my experiences but was mainly about the lives of people and refugees I interviewed. Although these works were in line with topics I was interested in: memory, trauma, identity, and sensory-to-language translation; they did not speak directly about my own experiences. Instead, offering others a space to speak about their own experiences, acted as a sort of buffer to having to address my own history or translate my experiences. In Zina’s studio that evening in Oakland, her statement acted as a mirror to my thoughts. I had been thinking about the exact same thing, but hesitating from fear of vulnerability. Sometimes, all you need to make a decision, is a loved one holding a mirror up to you. In my case, the conversation with Zina was exactly the push I needed.

Today, I am working on series of works about momentous experiences that shaped my life.  For my residency at Box Jelly and Fishcake, the main concept is ‘Motherhood’. The root of this is in the early loss of my mother to an act of violence.  The sprout of this is my recent pregnancy. In the first month of my residency at Box Jelly and Fishcake, I had planned already to make work about my mother: my memories of her, the pain of losing her to violence, and letting go of the power it’s held over me. Then I learned I was pregnant, and suddenly it became more imperative to do this work now.

The Artist’s Mother

Looking back, what made Zina’s paintings of her father and his childhood friends endearing wasn’t just the colors, or line-work of the paintings. It was also the emotional connection of Zina to the subjects, their memories, and a deep longing for a home loved and lost to time and circumstance. The pieces I am making about my mother will neither recreate her, nor come close to fully defining who she was. By exploring the fragments of her that I still have with me: memories of her singing to me, lifting me to her hips, moving around my grandmother’s yard. Memories of running up to her, burying myself in her skirts, hugging her legs. As well as elusive memories of the moments surrounding her death. I hope to build an exhibit that, as a whole, will give a sense of what she meant to me and the implications of a life lived under the shadow of loss.


Sandalwood and Memory of Place

My time here at Box Jelly and Fishcake has continued to be inspiring. During a meeting last month with collaborators to discuss an upcoming performance, I ran the concept by Maura Fujihira. She immediately had two simple questions that completely changed the direction of the work. The piece I was working on, Cleanse, is a performance of an act of mourning that involved me cleaning and washing a space in Ward Warehouse, as a final act of nurture and gratitude before it would be torn down. Maura asked: “What soap will you be using?” and “What will you be wearing?” In that moment, I had assumed that what I would be wearing would be something white but hadn’t thought beyond that.  I also wasn’t confident in my decision for a dress.  I discussed my options with Maura and was much more confident in my choice at the end.

In terms of the soap, I had originally thought that I would use an African Black Soap I had procured from a natural product shop in Nigeria the last time I was there.  My reasoning for this was that the piece, Cleanse was a way for me to mourn my mother who passed away in Nigeria when I was a child. While describing the decision to Maura, I recognized that I felt no particular connection to the soap itself aside from the fact that it was from a shop in Nigeria. I didn’t immediately decide to change the soap, but it stayed in the back of mind. It was a very important part of the performance and as such, it was important that it also had a strong connection to the piece itself. That night, the conversation with Maura came to mind again. She is quite intuitive and sensitive in an ethereal way. Something about her choice of the question lingered. I fell asleep that night thinking that I needed better intention in the decision of the soap used for Cleanse.

The next day, my videographers and I went on a site visit of the space to plan the performance.  After our meeting, I mindfully strolled about all of Ward Warehouse to prepare myself for the performance. Lost in thought towards the very end of my walk, I came upon Island Soap & Candle Works. Walking in, I met the owners and their lovely young adult children, Kimo and Tiare. Both had grown up knowing the family business in Ward Warehouse. They told me of the countless hours they spent as children in the space watching their parents work. Tiare had no memories of the family business not being located in Ward Warehouse. Both expressed feeling sad about the closing of the space but also looked forward to the next phase of the business they had watched their parents build and were themselves also helping develop. The family not only sold soaps and candles in the space; they also created their products in the back of the Ward Warehouse space. Kimo and Tiare showed me the new series of soaps they were working on – beautiful decadent pieces carefully crafted from a complex combination of soaps that rivaled pastries in any French patisserie. It was apparent that they loved what they did and unmistakable that they grew up working in the field. I decided at that moment to describe my project to them and ask for a recommendation on a soap.

Sandalwood – ‘iliahi in Hawaiian – has a strong influence on the history of Hawaii. Six high-quality species of the tree once grew so abundantly on the islands that the Chinese referred to the Hawaiian Islands as the Sandalwood Mountains. Through the foreign trade of Sandalwood – Hawaii’s first major export – King Kamehameha I was able to procure weapons in which to aid in his conquering and unifying of the islands. That trade lasted between 1790 and 1825. On August 1st, 2017, I bought two barsof Cedar Sage Sandalwood soap from Island Soap & Candle Works at the suggestion of local soap makers, Kimo and Tiare. Both bars were made in Ward Warehouse. They were made of natural ingredients, had a neutral aesthetic, and carried a beautiful faint fragrance of sandalwood.  I used one of them in my performance of Cleanse on August 2nd, 2017 to scrub the walls and floors of Ward Warehouse. I intend to use the second bar in a second performance at BoxJelly + Fishcake during my exhibit. As this second piece develops, I will share more.

Nanci Amaka



Settling Into The Space

My time here at BoxJelly and Fishcake has so far, been very productive in many unexpected ways.  As a conceptual artist working with the challenging concepts of trauma, memory, and identity, I was unsure of what would come from my time here at a co-working space and interior design organization.  I must say that I have been thoroughly impressed with: the counsel I have received, the space itself, and the freedom to explore and build on my concepts.

My first interaction with BoxJelly and Fishcake was during their introduction of the Artist In Residence (AIR) program at the Artist In Conversation (AIC) Q&A talk. After the Q&A, I was able to tour the space, and get my bearings of what it could allow in terms of art production. I also met several of the creatives already working there. In my initial proposal, I had intended to develop ‘Sensoria’ – a series I have been working on that centers around the concept of paradoxically translating sensory information. During my interview with Laurie Sumiye, and Keiko Hatano, they encouraged me to continue working on my performances as that was what I really wanted to work on.  Although it wasn’t immediately clear how I could translate performance work into their space, nor exhibit it after my residency, I was encouraged to do the work anyway as it was interesting and relevant.  I was, and am still, very grateful for their trust in my work and concepts.

I began my residency in July and have been very happy with it.  The AIR space is located in the inner sections of Fishcake and provides ample space to work; including a gorgeous large work table, ample storage and quite a bit of privacy. It resembles a studio and I immediately felt at ease creating a dry ‘mess’. The residency also comes with 24-hour access which comes in handy when I have to come in at odd hours to work. I will say though, that my favorite part of the space is the ability to meet with several collaborators and teams to discuss projects I am working on. In those cases, it is very easy to buy them coffee at Morning Glass and then settle in at a communal table and meet in a professional setting away from the mess of my studio table.

I am curious and excited about what the rest of my time here at Box Jelly + Fishcake will yield. The counsel I have received as well as the artistic freedom to develop my work has been generous and I am very grateful for it.  I have been able to work as I usually do – intuitively and open to nuance, while maintaining a discipline of concept. I cannot say that I am surprised to find that I have been able to work this way here; as I had no clear expectations.  But I will say that I am thoroughly enjoying the experience.

Nanci Amaka



Goodluck Judith

Judith Brieger from has been through a long journey with us here at BoxJelly (since November 2015)! She’s now ready to move into a new geographic location to reach new clients.

Judith and Marlon are the co-founders of 50/50, amprsand, and white-space studio. I want to start off with a big mahalo to them, because they’re the team responsible for our website. Simply put, they run a branding and design agency. The business has been through multiple rebrandings and changes over the years. They have been through the trenches and they have tested & studied the market already.



I had the opportunity to interview Judith before she moved to Las Vegas. Let’s go back to how it all started. Judith originally sparked her passion during her corporate career. She wasn’t fully satisfied with the cubicle life and she has always felt like she was on the wrong side of the meetings.

What first started off as a passion and hobby grew into a successful small business that offers website design, branding development, social media marketing, and much more. Judith said that by strengthening her network and connections with clients she was able to finally make the jump, because there was a market for the services that they offered.


Their specialty is website design and development. They incorporate UI design, strategic UX design, back-end integration, & API for both websites & apps. They also deal with a lot of branding and illustrations such as logos and mascots. Judith says that when creating a logo design it’s not about what you like, but it’s all about what the target market likes. However, it still needs to mirror the businesses style and voice.



White-space studio has affected small businesses in many ways. Their conversion rates increase, the businesses expand, donation percentages shoot up, and strong branding is established from the very beginning. If you’re interested in benefitting from this, then feel free to email them for a free consultation at [email protected]. You can also reach out to them on Instagram You NEED to check out their Instagram feed, because I mean look at this theme.





Chantal & Her Creativity Journey

Chantal Monté has been all over from foreign countries like Bali to Sante Fe and San Francisco. She loves to tap into her creativity through all forms of artwork. She speaks about her exotic paintings, seductive quotes, and deep poems with so much passion. With her background in iyengar yoga and meditation, she’s able to get into the zone to let that artistic ability flow.

Chantal says that, “Sante Fe is a very special for artists and healers.” This is where she got a good taste of the art industry, but Bali is where she was “recreated.” During her repeated trips to Bali she was able to train and work on her gifts. She knew it was time to move on and break free from her past. She’s now pursuing her passion and fire through mediums such as poetry, music and teaching.

Her new album SYRUP was just released. SYRUP has the viscosity of honey mixed with the taste of pleasure and intimacy. You can listen to the teaser here.

“When we are able to experience love and sorrow, ecstasy and pain, equally and without resistance, then we are able to fall in love with our entire life. Everything is welcomed. Nothing is left out. Love is all inclusive.”


She’s expanded and reached out to offer classes such as a global online event called Meditation for Lovers and offers private coaching for couples wanting to explore their relationship as a creative union. And by meditation, she means meeting in the bedroom naked, shutting the door to the outside world and wrapping legs around hips as a way to connect and feel into each other. She’s able to work in-person and online. She will help guide you through every step of the way. If we want to feel turned-on with our lives, we must slow down.


“Slowing down is the key.”


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