Carly Veronica is a muralist, graphic designer, and yoga instructor whose work deals with natural beauty, transformation, and universality. Based on that bio, it might not surprise you that Carly and I met at a morning energy workshop inside a giant pyramid at Burning Man. We’ve stayed in touch since then, and in June, Carly created one of her largest murals to date, “Be the Change,” for Arts Bridging the Gap’s “Paint the Peace” project. She shared insights with PLU about her creative journey, art’s healing power, and what painting murals means in these times.
*Gracie Bialecki, who conducted this interview, is a writer, performer, and editor of Paris Lit Up magazine.
An Interview with Carly Veronica and Kalon Fowler, regarding the creation of their mural in support of #BlackLivesMatter.
1. Can you tell us a little about your artistic journey? How did you end up as a painter and muralist?
I grew up in the Sierra Nevada forest of Northern California, an area cocooned by lakes and trees. Inspired by the natural beauty around me, as well as by the drawings and paintings of my father and grandfather, I began creating art at an early age. At 18, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in animation and in turn graduated from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in 2009 with a BFA in Character Animation. One year of that was spent attending an art intensive at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, where I created a three-minute short film titled “Pink Spray Paint (You Have Too Much of It)” which won Best Experimental Animated Film at Animation Block Party in Brooklyn, NY and showed in ten other film festivals internationally.
For eight years, I worked in commercial arts, creating animation and graphic design work for Disney and other companies before moving to Austin, Texas where I co-created a boutique animation production company called Remote Image & Motion. During my time there, I rediscovered myself as an artist and my connection with tactile materials. I began working with laser cutters, learned how to build frames in a woodshop and began creating large laser cut resin and watercolor paintings. Ultimately I made the decision to stop my commercial art career and create work that was more personal and honest to my soul.
After leaving Austin, I spent eight months exploring the US as well as India and Nepal to find new direction, balance, and purpose in my life. While in India in 2018, I experienced a spiritual awakening through meditation intensives and yoga-teacher training which motivated me to inspire communities on a large scale. I have always loved to create large-scale works and I realized working as a mural artist would allow me the freedom to create large works, create art for the people and the ability to travel with just a backpack. I created a series of murals all throughout India during my five-month stay as a way to give back to the country and people that had such a profound impact on my life.
Since then, I have painted murals in Japan, Joshua Tree, and Los Angeles. I am currently creating a massive mural that covers the 1,000 sq. ft. space of my loft’s floors and walls.
2. What have you learned through this process? Any lessons to share?
As an artist who has worked in so many mediums, it can be difficult for people to really understand the work I do. I feel the most aligned with my truth as a mural artist. Through mural art, I can create art that is accessible to anybody—art for the people. Access to the healing power of the arts and work that is participatory in nature is something that is very important to me. As a street artist, I can engage and collaborate with communities of all backgrounds and help to inspire them with beauty. I create many of my murals with participation in mind and I often invite others to paint along with me.
3. In addition to your art, you're also a yoga instructor. Can you tell us more about the relationship you see between teaching and creating? How has yoga informed your art?
Teaching is an amazing way to clarify my own practice and it continues to inspire me to seek knowledge for myself and to share with my students. My art is deeply influenced by my yoga practice. In my practice I am able to get into a flow state and often creative ideas and inspiration come to mind. I showcase the beauty of humans and animals alike. I work with friends of mine as models who have a deep spiritual practice and I showcase their beauty and their connection to the universe while in a yoga pose that feels the most authentic to them.
4. On top of art and yoga, you're also an active member of the Burning Man community which spans the globe, and you even lived in France at one point. How do our current times allow artists in different countries to interact with and inspire each other? Do you see yourself as part of a global community?
I definitely see myself as part of the global community. Living in Paris deepened my wanderlust and inspired me to make travel a main focus in my life. Instagram is a very important platform for artists to connect worldwide. Although as artists, we all still need to have websites, most people only look at Instagram. It is a great way for artists to connect with each other no matter where we live. I am constantly inspired by the artists I follow on Instagram. Even in these difficult times, I can connect with business owners across the US and the world and make plans to create murals. Since traveling still is a difficult thing during COVID, it is very likely next mural projects will be in the US.
5. The "Be the Change" mural in LA Is one of your most political pieces. What inspired you to create it now? Is the mural itself part of the change you want to see?
“Be the Change” was created for Black Lives Matter and the “Paint Your Peace” project from the arts non-profit Arts Bridging the Gap. The mural was created in collaboration with artist Kalon Fowler (@kalonfowlerart). We came up with the concept the day we started painting the mural on Hollywood Blvd. I often use words of affirmation in my work, Arts Bridging the Gap specifically asked for uplifting messages. Gandhi’s quote, “Be the Change you want to see in this world” came to mind as he was a leader in civil rights, and I felt his words were an honest hope for the current moment and the future. Kalon painted the eyes to call for people to wake up the injustice in the world, to show that everyone is watching and people need to be accountable to their actions. I painted the rainbow arch that spans the 44ft mural to represent the full spectrum of beauty and color of humanity and as a shout out to all of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters in the black community.
Art is an incredible healing tool. While creating the piece, so many people stopped to talk to us and tell us how much the work meant to them. All over the world people are suffering to endure the lengthy trial of COVID-19, art brings people together to bask in beauty and joy. As an artist, what means the most to me is helping to create positive change, beauty in people's lives, and vibrancy to our streets.