For Archana Aneja, the stunning Kashmir valley, rightfully known as “Paradise on Earth” was what signified home, a place she was born in, and where she spent much of her early childhood. Growing up, such surroundings replete with tremendous beauty and mysticism had a lasting impact on Aneja’s psyche and innate art. In the subsequent years, the quaint south Indian town of Tumkur, Karnataka became Aneja and her family’s new home. It was during this phase in her life that Aneja assimilated — gratitude for being alive, importance of simple living, belief in a higher power, and a realization of her parents’ constant struggle to provide their children with the best possible upbringing. She also learnt not to take anything for granted.
After pursuing a bachelor’s degree in architecture during her formative years, Aneja had always nurtured the dream of owning an architecture firm and making an impact on the Indian urban landscape. But marriage and moving across continents to the United States was on the cards for Aneja. Nevertheless, the move and the onset of a new life came with the incredible sense of independence and a personal responsibility. Aneja completed her master’s degree in architecture [with honors] from Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, MI; and for the first time, being a career woman, a girl, a wife and a future mother felt achievable.
Aneja worked as an architectural designer in numerous reputed Metro Detroit firms where she contributed towards creating a variety of impressive architectural projects. Soon after being blessed with two wonderful children, Aneja gave up on her paycheck to be in charge of her own time. Ever since, Aneja uses the universal language of art to express her emotions and feelings. Grooving to her favorite music, she uses bright, bold palettes, heavy textured layers, acrylic colors, and mixed media to create contemporary art, sculpture and wearable art representing life itself. Aneja maintains how her husband, kids, parents, and sister have been staunch supporters of her journey while having the good fortune of being able to participate and exhibit her creations in several groups, juried and solo exhibits across the globe. The Indian SCENE spoke at length with Aneja about her creative journey so far and her valuable insights about the design industry.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for length and clarity.
The Indian SCENE: Why do you enjoy about your profession?
Archana Aneja: I am a creative soul. I move with the flow of life. I live in the present and every morning is a fresh start. I don’t like to plan ahead. I accept things as they unravel and I am often content with the results. My creativity is a true extension of me. My art is based on the motto: “Break your boundaries and let life flow!” Often it is free flowing, loud, vibrant, and shiny and an amalgam of many mixed media, which come together to form a harmonious whole. If my art makes someone smile or brings someone joy, my goal is achieved.
IS: How has this pandemic impacted you?
AA: It has only strengthened our core beliefs. Family comes first, money isn’t everything, health is wealth and that you only live once.
IS: Tell us about your designs.
AA: Brightness, brilliance, glory, and majesty are words that have always guided my vision when it comes to my love affair with art, architecture and design. It has been the sheer magnificence of creative masterpieces throughout our history, which has excited me and served as a lifelong motivation. My inspiration also comes from my personal life experiences. I was born in India, hence vibrant colors and cultural grandeur run in my veins. I spent the first three decades of my life learning and practicing architecture. The next decade was spent living in and traveling across Europe and USA. This all has collectively led to following my true passion, which is to create art. Art in various shapes and forms, be it fine art, sculpture, clothing or shoes. My wearable art collections are exquisite and unique. Textiles prints are based on my original paintings created with acrylics and mixed media. Free spirited, vibrant, sculptural and full of life, each painting and associated wearable art line has a mesmerizing quality to it.
IS: What/who inspires you?
AA: My personal life is my biggest inspiration. I was born in India and grew up in a very small town. My parents worked hard to give me a comfortable childhood and the best possible education. I find inspiration in ups and downs of everyday life, in societal issues, in nature, in motherhood, in architecture, and in my rich Indian heritage.
IS: How do you think people are influenced by your creations?
AA: I would like to state that art is now treated as a serious career choice and artists are given the credit they truly deserve. Most often, the choice of choosing art as a full time profession or means of livelihood is hard for people to grasp. I’ve often been questioned about leaving a secure nine to five job to pursue my passion. I sincerely hope to continue on this path till the day I die and hope that my dedication and commitment leaves a legacy that inspires many more women and men to do the same.
IS: What is the best advice you have received and from whom?
AA: For life in general: The Mercedes Benz motto, which goes as: “Das Beste oder Nichts” meaning “the best or nothing.”
For art: “Mere color, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.” – Oscar Wilde
IS: What advice would you offer to our Indian American youth who want to pursue a career in design?
AA: We often forget to pursue our dreams as we find ourselves simply following the norms and imprisoned within various perceived social, cultural, and prejudicial expectations. We need to break these boundaries so that we can maximize our potential and realize our dreams. Career in design is for anyone who is passionate about creativity. It is satisfying and exhilarating. There are several options like Architecture, Interiors, Product Design or Fashion. For me personally, they all seem connected. I would recommend our youth to take related courses in high school or opt for short internships to get the true flavor. Also to keep in mind is that several of these careers will need years of work experience, registrations and certifications. You need to be committed.
IS: What is next for you?
AA: I am super excited about my very first mural for a non-profit in Detroit, which will be unveiled in the next few weeks. My “wearable art” line will be launching in an upcoming new local boutique. And my pro bono work with several local organizations is always what I look forward to.