LOOKING INWARD

SE FLORIDA STYLE by STACEY MARCUS / photography by HOLGER OBENAUS

If there is one thing Klara Chavarria is crystal clear about, it is where the essence of her art is found. While some artists watch the way the light dances on the ocean or late afternoon sunset melts into the sky, Chavarria searches her soul to direct her paintbrush.

“I love nature. I get inspired by that perfection in the natural world,” she muses, digging a bit deeper to clarify her process. “My work is not defined by my surroundings. It is more internal.”

Although the internationally acclaimed artist was born in Guatemala, her work is not influenced by the landscape of the “Land of Eternal Springs.” Her soulful spirit has created hundreds of paintings, and her work has won several awards and hangs in private and corporate collections in the United States, Latin America and Europe.

When she was 8, Chavarria won an art prize. She recalls the defining moment, remembering her parents saying, “We should send her to art school.” Chavarria studied academic painting with a renowned Guatemalan artist and professor for a decade and obtained her Bachelor of Visual Communications/Graphic Design from Rafael LandÍvar University in Guatemala City. She then relocated to the United States, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Kansas State University, concentrating in design, visual arts and painting.

“I was always working on my art practice,” says Chavarria, who worked in the corporate world after graduating from college but ultimately returned to her passion of painting. She launched her art career more than 15 years ago in the Midwest, creating works in studios in Chicago and Cincinnati. She now has a private studio and exhibition space, which is open to the public, in Coral Gables.

Over the years, Chavarria has created a signature style of figurative abstract expressionism, digging deep inside her soul to explore the spiritual depths of life. A quick perusal through her robust portfolio of more than 600 works reveals her searching soul. Why Do I Feel? is the title of one of her works. In this piece, her signature figure is perched on a chair, wondering. We are drawn into Chavarria’s world of reflection and curiosity and soothed by her palette and brushstrokes. Another piece entitled Why Do We Feel? explores the question from a couple’s perspective, showing them sharing what appears to be the warmth of a fire. Chavarria’s work makes you stop, look and wonder.

“We are all connected,” she says. “The one thing we have in common is a beautiful mystery. We are all more together than apart. When I was younger, I wanted to study philosophy. I believe we are more than just a body. We are souls.”

Her work was selected by the City of Miami Beach for a public art and design project and is displayed in a public collection piece exhibited at the Museum of Science and Industry and at O’Hare International Airport, both in Chicago. In addition to public art displays, Chavarria’s work is collected by private international collectors.

Painting for Chavarria is a pure, organic and authentic process. “I would like to be recognized for something authentic,” she says. While some of the work dives deep and dark, other pieces are playful and emotional. One cannot help but smile when viewing In a Relationship with a Phone, which shows a person sprawled out on a bed looking at the phone. Instead of someone lying next to this person, the bed is empty, and the phone is on the other pillow. While one smiles at first, after a bit of reflection the melancholy seeps in.

“My work is so human,” says Chavarria. When asked how she would like to be remembered as an artist, she pauses and reflects: “I would like to think that I did something as pure and authentic as I could. I would like people to see that I put my heart and soul in my work and see that there is some truth in it.”

Stacey Marcus is a Boston-based freelance lifestyle, luxury and travel writer. Her works have appeared in Art New England, Boston magazine and Modern Luxury Chicago, among many others. A lover of big words and little white dogs, Stacey’s biggest joys are found in life’s simple moments.