Calida Rawles’ Aquatic Artistry in Lazinc Magazine

Wade In the Water

An Exploration of Water’s Metaphorical Power in Art


In this interview, we delve into the captivating world of Calida Rawles, an esteemed artist who has garnered substantial attention for her thought-provoking exhibition, “A Dream for My Lilith.” Through her artwork, Rawles delves into the complex symbolism of water, inviting viewers to contemplate the themes of life, death, the unknown, and the vastness of the universe. In our conversation, she sheds light on her creative process, her personal experiences, and the profound impact of water as a transformative element.

Discovering Beauty Amidst Uncertainty

Throughout the interview, Calida Rawles offers an intimate glimpse into her life and the challenges she faces as an artist and a mother. With a disarmingly candid approach, she shares her feelings of guilt associated with being in the studio while her husband cares for their children. She recounts a recent episode of self-induced panic, mistaking her symptoms for COVID-19, and highlights the emotional turbulence experienced during the quarantine period.

The Allure of Water

Rawles expresses her deep longing for the soothing embrace of water, as she yearns to swim in a pool and ultimately acquire a home with one. She reminisces about her childhood art sales, where she would draw and sell cartoons to friends, igniting her belief in the potential to earn a living through art. Reflecting on the success of her solo exhibition and the timing of its opening, she conveys immense gratitude and joy. Such validation reinforces her dedication to creating intricate and time-consuming paintings, which she continuously refines to ensure maximum resonance with her audience.

Symbolic Significance of Lilith

The artist delves into the inspiration behind her exhibition’s title, “A Dream for My Lilith,” drawing from the often-overlooked biblical character of Lilith. She reflects upon the parallels between Lilith’s defiance for equality in Eden and the struggles faced by black women. Through her work, Rawles invites contemplation on the concept of equal rights and challenges the societal stereotypes that limit the experiences of black women. She further relates personal anecdotes, emphasizing the importance of highlighting the multifaceted identities and resilience of black females.

A Tribute to Loved Ones

Rawles shares the deeply personal nature of her artwork, often rooted in experiences and relationships involving her family members. She recounts the profound impact of losing her cousin and the subsequent realization of the fragility of life. Through her art, she pays homage to her cousin’s legacy and the indomitable spirit of women who refuse to conform to societal expectations. Rawles also discusses the significance of her daughter’s coming-of-age journey and the challenges she may face as a black woman in society.

A Visual Language of Healing and Empowerment

The artist divulges her fascination with the transformative properties of water. She poignantly describes the therapeutic qualities she finds within water and its ability to evoke feelings of lightness and freedom. Rawles explores the idea of utilizing water as a visual metaphor to address difficult and divisive topics while instilling a sense of calmness and comfort. From personal experiences to pressing social issues, her art channels the power of water to engage the viewer and encourage dialogue.

A Tribute to Victims of Injustice

Rawles delves into the influence of real-world events, particularly incidents of police violence, on her artistic expressions. She shares her personal connection to the untimely death of Stephon Clark, a victim of police brutality, recounting the fear she experiences for the safety of her own family members. Through her art, she aims to shed light on the dehumanization and injustices faced by black individuals in society. Rawles skillfully incorporates hidden elements, such as galaxies and maps, symbolizing the untapped potential and cultural memories within every person.

The Artistic Process

Rawles discusses her unique approach to creating artwork through photoshoots. Armed with her trusty iPhone and the assistance of her daughters, she captures images that serve as references for her paintings. The improvisational nature of the process allows for spontaneity and exploration, resulting in powerful and evocative images. Rawles elaborates on her meticulous selection process, meticulously piecing together various aspects from multiple photographs to create a cohesive final piece.

The Power of Painting

Rawles acknowledges the profound influence of Winslow Homer’s painting, “The Gulf Stream,” on her artistic journey. She recounts how her father’s interpretation of the painting as a symbol of resilience and hope deeply impacted her perspective. This newfound appreciation for the transformative nature of art inspires her to create immersive and impactful experiences through larger-scale paintings. Rawles discusses her desire to provoke conversations and encourage a broader understanding of societal issues through her art.

The Spiritual Significance of Water

Water emerges as a powerful symbol of spiritual healing throughout Rawles’ work. She delves into personal and cultural connections with water, evoking memories of family trips to the beach and the complex history of racial segregation surrounding access to water. The artist revisits the historical Middle Passage, contemplating how water possesses the collective memories of a culture. Rawles draws parallels between the enigmatic qualities of water and humanity itself, instilling a sense of wonder and introspection in her creations.

The Transformative Nature of Water

Rawles reflects on the contrasting experiences water offers, from a sensation of weightlessness to the potential danger of sinking. Drawing from her own journey of learning to swim, she relates this experience to life’s uncertainties and the importance of relinquishing control. She finds solace in the beauty of water, even amid turbulent times, and equates this with finding beauty in every aspect of life. With a palpable excitement, Rawles expresses her eagerness to explore new possibilities in her art, pushing the boundaries of her relationship with water.


In a thought-provoking and deeply personal interview, Calida Rawles invites us into her artistic world, where water reigns as a powerful and evocative force. From exploring themes of equality and justice to celebrating the resilience of black women, her artwork provokes introspection and dialogue. Rawles utilizes water as a transformative element, imbuing her paintings with both serenity and meaning. Through her art, she opens avenues for conversation, healing, and a renewed appreciation for the beauty and significance of water in our lives.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What inspired Calida Rawles’ exploration of water as a metaphor in her artwork?

Calida Rawles draws inspiration from her personal experiences, cultural history, and the allure of water itself. Water serves as a symbol of life, healing, and the unknown, resonating with the artist on both a spiritual and emotional level.

2. How does Calida Rawles incorporate social issues, such as police violence, into her artwork?

Rawles incorporates social issues by intertwining hidden elements within her paintings, such as galaxies and maps. These symbols represent untapped potential and cultural memories, aiming to shed light on injustice and foster conversations about pressing societal matters.

3. What is unique about Calida Rawles’ artistic process?

Rawles employs an improvisational approach to capture source material, utilizing her iPhone and the assistance of her daughters. This process allows for spontaneity and exploration, resulting in powerful and evocative compositions that resonate with viewers.

4. How does water serve as a source of healing and empowerment in Rawles’ artwork?

Water functions as a therapeutic element for Rawles, evoking feelings of lightness and freedom. Through her paintings, she aims to create a visual language of healing and empowerment, utilizing water to address difficult topics while instilling a sense of comfort and calmness.

5. How does Rawles incorporate personal and familial experiences into her artwork?

Calida Rawles infuses her art with personal narratives and familial stories, allowing viewers to connect on an intimate level. By sharing deeply personal reflections and tributes to loved ones, she invites contemplation on themes of identity, resilience, and the human experience.