“I Think You Can Do a Bit of Everything”: Artist Alexandra Nechita
Help us celebrate Women’s History Month and International’s Women’s Day with stories of finding purpose, spreading positivity, and feeling good
By Eric Alt | Created: 03/16/2021 | Updated: 03/19/2021 | 7 min read
Flexpower believes that everyone has the right to feel good, and that nothing should prevent anyone from chasing those things that energize them, challenge them, and move them. Throughout the month of March, we’re celebrating Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day through conversations with women from vastly different backgrounds, disciplines, and careers to find out how they chased their own sense of purpose, found their own source of “feel good,” and used their positive drive to help and inspire others.
There’s an article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel from 1997 where the paper’s resident art writer Roger Hurlburt discusses an 11-year-old prodigy named Alexandra Nechita. After acknowledging the incredible work being produced by the young girl already being dubbed “petite Picasso,” Hurlburt muses, “I would hate to see the career of this admittedly talent young artist amount to no more than a stunt.”
It’s an idea that – 24 years later – still makes Alexandra laugh.
“Because I was so young when I started, everyone was waiting for me to be this flash in the pan. ‘Wait until she gets a boyfriend…wait until she tries drugs…wait until she does this, wait until she does that…’ Effectively waiting for me to fail.” From doodling weird creatures in class (and coming home tearful when they were made fun of by classmates) to having her first solo show at age 8 to establishing an astounding career that would see her work hang in both the Vatican and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Alexandra was simply doing what she loved all along. It wasn’t something she saw as a livelihood or a career or a stunt – it was a true, bone-deep passion.
Alexandra didn’t necessarily have to chase her “feel good” purpose – it seems to have been there since before she was even conscious of it – but has had to learn how to nurture and protect it as she and her art have grown and evolved.
We had a chance to talk to Alexandra about her childhood, her work, and how an opportunity to hit “pause” on her thriving career helped her reconnect with the joy in her work that’s been there since her first box of Crayolas.
“How did you get started?” seems like an awkward question when you were having gallery shows while still in elementary school…
It was such a natural and organic happening, so to speak. Anyone with children or any exposure at all to children knows that kids love mark-making – whether it’s on a wall or on a paper or whatever. They like this act of being able to imprint themselves in some way. The impetus behind me drawing and coloring was just that it was another activity to keep me busy and keep me out of trouble. I have a five-and-a-half-year-old now, so I know exactly what that means. I’m constantly searching for things to keep her little mind preoccupied and flourishing.
My parents worked two full time jobs plus overtime, they were really just trying to keep me preoccupied. Little did they know that they were feeding into this beast, essentially. This passion beast that I had, and I still have to this day so many years later. They never imagined it as being a lifelong journey. They really just thought they were encouraging a super banal and typical hobby that all children have. Instead, it manifested into this love affair.
Your parents immigrated to the U.S. from Romania when you were a baby. How did that impact you early on?
I didn’t speak English until I was in kindergarten, and my mother wanted me to be normal and have some kind of social life. But instead, I was just drawing and coloring. They tried at one point to enroll me in a tap dance class, then they tried other things to distract me, but I kept constantly kept returning to my sketchbook, my coloring book, whatever it was.
I was constantly retreating into drawing, even during class, and I would always choose to do crafts or whatever rather than go outside or do another activity, and so finally my third grade teacher at a parent teacher conference asked my parents what the deal was. My parents showed him all the canvases I had painted – they actually had to move furniture around to accommodate them all – and my teacher told them that the local library has this space where they show work from local artist and asked if I would like to show. My parents had no clue what that meant, and for me I thought, “Yeah! Let’s have a party! And I can invite all the kids who laugh at me!” So that was my first exhibition. I had a reception with strawberries and cookies and punch and sold first canvas for $50. The rest is history.
Not many artists can claim to be in the Vatican and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Yeah, it’s pretty rad. I think that’s a true testament to my ideology – I’m a little bit of a believer of being able to walk on land and water, and I think you can do a bit of everything, perhaps you can’t do it all at once, you can have it all at once, but I certainly believe that there is a way to live everywhere and be present everywhere in your life. I live by that philosophy so much, because I don’t want to pigeonhole myself as an artist who is only appreciated by the industry or is exclusively only being shown like this or shown like that. I think it’s exactly who I am as a human being and as a person and as a woman.
Traditionally the artist is this sort of hermit creature doing this very solitary work, and if they’re lucky before they die one of their paintings hangs somewhere…but I think that narrative has shifted completely. Now, artists have their own access to platforms and can actually create their identities on their own without the dependency of a gallery or a dealer or whatever it is. The art industry for so long lived in such a discriminatory place. That’s the most incredible gift because that is the ultimate dream of any artist, to create an audience and have some level of engagement with the work. I’ve always said that if you do things you love with a full heart, it’s impossible for that work to not emanate that energy. It’s impossible for that work to not connect with somebody, even if it’s one person.
How do you stay inspired or keep that creative passion burning?
I inevitably arrived at this place at one point in my career where the machine was so incredibly well oiled and I kept going and going, and the demand was huge and I was just making shit because…I had to make shit! I had been on the run since I was 9 years old just going going going…and I never realized until I stopped that something wasn’t right. I was spent.
That’s when I recognized, “OK, I have an option here. I can burn out now, or I can remind myself how sacred this relationship that I have, and this opportunity that I have, and honor it the same way that it’s honored me my whole life.” In my case, that meant pausing, saying no to a lot of projects. I made this purposeful decision to say, “OK, I’m going to do this for the first time in my life, I’m going to say no.” I never stopped producing work, I just stopped chasing and fulfilling the needs of other people, really. I spent that time just making things that I wanted to make, that meant something to me, things I was excited about without worrying where it was going to end up or how many I had to make, or whatever. And I found myself again in that process. It’s an important thing to honor when you have a deep connection to what you’re doing, whatever it is. Whatever fuels your fire, it’s no different than having a human relationship. You need to honor that.
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