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By Srianthi Perera | Japanuary 19, 2022

Lex Gjurasic wants to radiate happiness in these troubled times.

The Tucson artist found the meditative process of creating art a balm during the pandemic isolation and is now displaying her work in an exhibition, titled “Radical Happiness: Lex Gjurasic,” at The Gallery at Chandler Center for the Arts through April 9.

The pieces incorporate a range of unconventional materials she had at home, from sample house paint to Styrofoam. Created in her home studio, they include imagined landscapes on panel, paintings on handmade paper, sculpture from Styrofoam and mortar and mixed media on found antique photos.

“The initial seed of the series started with a funny little yellow painting that I created just for myself, to make me happy,” Gjurasic says. “As I proceeded with the work and my ‘Flower Mounds’ series grew, I returned to my natural tact of making art as a way to process emotions, and therefore, the state of the world.”

For Gjurasic, art became a form of coping.

“As I began to work in my studio and spend more time at home during the pandemic, or exclusively with my family in nature, camping, I started funneling this longing for art, being able to be out of the house, looking forward to be out in nature as a respite and distraction from the pandemic,” she explains. “Some of the landscapes feel like a love letter, a longing for being out in the world in this ideal setting.”

The show’s title, Gjurasic says, comes from the understanding that happiness is often a choice.

“It’s often a choice we make in the face of not just the doom and gloom of a never-ending pandemic but other outside forces such as oppression, mental health challenges and societal shame,” she says. “When we don’t allow negativity to take away our happiness, our delight, our joy, we win.”

Gjurasic, a professional artist who also teaches, has had her work shown nationally for more than 29 years.

In 2009, she was a featured artist in the exhibition “Kokeshi: Folk Art to Art Toy” at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, and in 2017, her video as part of the Miranda July Archive “Joanie4Jackie” became part of the permanent collection of the Getty Institute.

Last year, she was invited to collaborate with the New Mexico-based art collective Meow Wolf as part of the permeant immersive experience “Convergence Station” in Denver. Last year, she was nominated for the Governor’s Arts Award.

Closer to home, she created a mural with the xity of Tucson’s downtown mural project. She also participated in an immersive exhibition at the Scottsdale Public Library with Scottsdale Public Art.

Her work for larger canvases doesn’t start on a small scale.

“My process is a totally flip-flop of what most artists tend to do, starting with a small sketch and blowing that up bigger and bigger like a balloon,” she says. “I usually, to my own detriment, light my inspiration on fire by starting with a big piece, which then gets whittled down to smaller and smaller pieces that are more digestible.”

Gjurasic was born in Seattle and has lived in Albuquerque and the Florida panhandle. Born to an American mother and a Croatian father who was born in Egypt, she is of mixed heritage.

Her Slavic heritage and the traditional work of Slavic women comes through her work.

“When it comes to embroidery, painting the outside of a house with a botanical floral feel, this isn’t just me doing this. This is a subconscious link to my heritage,” she says.

Slavic embroidery is characterized by tiny floral motifs that make up a larger pattern, either geometric or organic.

Gjurasic’s flower mounds series features spears of florals. “Throughout the creation of this series, I thought often of the delight and solace my Slavic foremothers took in floral motif embroidery on garments, decorated “pisanica” or Easter eggs and traditional Croatian silver filigree jewelry during tremulous times,” she says.

With “Radical Happiness,” Gjurasic wants viewers to feel positive emotions. “I’d like them to feel high as a kite! I want them to not walk about from the art but I want them to literally levitate and float away feeling elevated,” she said.

“Radical Happiness: Lex Gjurasic”

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday through April 9

WHERE: The Gallery at Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Avenue, Chandleer

COST: Free admission

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