I guess there are a lot of factors that played a role in me coming to New York, but in short –I was at a point in my life where I could have continued a straightforward, safe and already laid out path, but that did not really spark my flame. I knew I needed to switch up something and change my physical environment to challenge myself in new ways. So, I sat down and thought about cities that would feed my lust of exploration. I had never been to New York before (that made it even more intriguing) and just started applying for jobs and ultimately moved.
Of all the things to love about New York City, we heard the subway might be your favorite part… really?
I mean, I am not sure if it is my favorite part of New York, but it is as New York as it can get which I cherish. Every time I leave New York for a longer period and return, I know I am back the moment I enter the subway. That is not to say that I have not experienced the various surprises and “gifts” that the underground has in store for you (I most definitely have). Apart from that, the subway also has a very nostalgic and sentimental value to me. I remember taking the overcrowded L-train every morning from Williamsburg to my office in the Financial District, roughly a 20min ride with one transfer at 14th St/Union Square. These 20 min were like daily, tiny meditation sessions to me – there is something very self-centering about the shared, collective indifference in New York’s subway, especially with noise-cancelling headphones
You’re currently in your last year of your Master’s in the Architecture program at Cornell University. Was becoming an architect always the path?
That depends on the definition of “always” – as a kid I had no idea what architecture was, so I would probably say no. As a teenager I tried approaching the decision to my prospective field of study very logically; I enjoyed art a lot, but also solving problems and mathematics. I thought art + math = architecture and surprisingly I have not been disappointed since. Not because my initial ideas of architecture were spot on (because they were definitely not) but rather because the field of architecture has super blurry boundaries and gave me skill sets for practically endless opportunities. That gives me the privilege and freedom to do whatever I want in my career (kind of).
Architecture is your profession, but painting is certainly your passion. What inspires you to create the abstract paintings you have become so known for?
Apart from the inspirational classics like love and heartbreak, I am convinced that I get inspired every day by things without necessarily knowing. However, I think a big source of my inspiration comes from the sky (literally). I am one of those helpless romantics who lay down somewhere and just watch the sky and clouds for hours. It is one of my fascinations that I am not getting sick off.
Marèa Maréas belief is that through travel we become more present and more connected to the people and places we are visiting. You told us that Nepal and New York (two very different places) have had a lasting impact on you. Can you elaborate?
They did! It is hard to put into words what my individual experiences in these two places were but they both evoke unique memories that I am very grateful for. In New York I was in one of the most dynamic cities in the world and in Nepal I stayed in a remote village somewhere on a mountain with very (very) basic living conditions. There is no way to compare these moments to one another, but I enjoyed occasionally walking 50 random blocks through the city as much as I enjoyed watching the sun rise every morning at 5:30am over a sublime, picturesque landscape of mountains and rice fields in Nepal. I guess the stark contrast between these two environments only adds to the appreciation I have of them.
Is there anywhere you are yearning to travel in 2022?
Yes! I am really dying to go to the desert regions of California, Nevada, and Arizona.
During our photo shoot you said, “My home is with me – Wherever I am becomes my home” and it really stuck with us. What is something we can do to develop that same mindset?
Hmm…Good question. I guess there are a few things that help me personally to develop this feeling – Having a close relationship to myself, not depending on my known environment, and seeing value in everything. I doubt this makes sense to everyone though. Ultimately, everyone has their own individual tools to manage their sense of home and I think there is beauty in that.
For someone who might be reading this and seeing themselves in you, what advice would you give them when it comes to leaving behind the familiarity and safety of the past and starting anew?
I am not sure if anybody should see themselves in me. However, if they do – carrying “home” with oneself as a solid framework and foundation is a great way to explore new territories and to let go without feeling totally lost and helpless (even though sometimes feeling totally lost and helpless is exactly what you need).
“Da Sun, Da Stars, and Damun ”. We see why your friends might have said this now… not just to remember the pronunciation of your name (as you joked) but because you have a calm coolness that shines brightly through.
See Damuns work here.