"Hope" Artists Q&A Series One

By Roxanne Phillips

We are pleased to present a new series of interviews with artists whose works are featured in our new virtual/online exhibit presented by Art Saint Louis, "Hope" (February 1-April 1, 2021). You can view all the virtual exhibit as well as all 48 featured artworks on our website here and in our Facebook album here.

We proudly introduce you to featured artists Adrienne Patel, MaryJo Clark and Sreelatha Varma.


Featured in Art Saint Louis’ virtual exhibit, “Hope”: Adrienne L.J. Patel, St. Louis, MO. “Children of Promise and Hope…It is Time to heal – our earth.” 2020. Acrylic on Canvas, 36”x48”. $1,800 unframed. Artist’s statement: “I wanted to portray that Hope and Promise dwell in our children. They have the power to heal our earth. Her eyes are green...the color of healing, balance, growth, and life. Energy flowing through her hands manifests her intention, love, and selflessness. The healing takes place…."

About the artist: Adrienne Patel is an acrylic, water color, and mixed media artist. Adrienne graduated from Fisk University with a B.A.in Fine Arts. She attended Skowhegan College in Maine and Cranbrook Academy of Art. Adrienne graduated from Peabody College with a MFA in Art and worked towards her PhD in Art Education at Illinois State University. She has participated in numerous exhibitions over the years and her work is included in various private and public collections.

Adrienne L. J. Patel. “Our Mother of Perpetual Anguish and Sadness.” 2017. Mixed Media on Canvas, 4’x3’. $2,000.

Roxanne Phillips: What do you find most challenging/rewarding about the creative process?
Adrienne Patel: For me, facing a blank sheet of paper or a blank canvas is the most challenging aspect of the creative process.

After that… letting go and flowing with the art, the process takes over. The journey itself is the reward.

Adrienne L. J. Patel. “Joy in the Morning.” 2020. Acrylic on Canvas, 4’x3’. $1,800.

RP: What is the biggest point of inspiration for your artwork?
AP: The biggest point of inspiration for my artwork comes from my family, my community, and growing up as an African-American in South Carolina.

Receiving nurturing support from my family, community, mentors and teachers, is such a wellspring of inspiration.

Adrienne L. J. Patel. “Blood Moon.” In Memory for all those souls who have lost their lives in ethnic cleansing… 2018. Acrylic on Canvas, 4’x3’. $1,800.

RP: Describe your path from deciding you want to be an artist to becoming one.
AP: I have always enjoyed creating. My family supported and encouraged my drawing and artwork.
Growing up in the segregated south, there were few studies in art offered at school and no outlets in the city to pursue art. I also had other interests - history, writing, science, and fashion design.

Many years later, I attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. It was my first week as a freshman at Fisk University. I was attending a Freshman Meeting in one of the meeting rooms in the student union. I was early for the meeting and happened to be the only person there. When I walked into the room there was painting on an easel by Aaron Douglas entitled “Building More Stately Mansions”. Aaron Douglas was a Professor of Art at Fisk and a well known artist from The Harlem Renaissance.

Adrienne L. J. Patel. “Heaven Above Earth.” 2019. Watercolor, Acrylic on Paper, 50” x22 ½”.

While I was standing there, gazing at the painting  .…. a stream of radiant light emanated from the painting…tears streamed from my eyes! I knew at that moment that I wanted to be an artist!
As a freshman, there are so many courses that you take so during my second semester I was able to enroll in the last art class of Professor Douglas. He was retiring at the end of that semester.
The following year, Dr. David Driskell became the head of the Art Department at Fisk.
Those years studying in the Fisk Art Department were so nurturing, creative, educational, and inspirational. There was a redefining, emergence and recognition of Black Art and Culture.

Dr. Driskell and the artists/teachers at Fisk guided my way to becoming an artist.

Adrienne L. J. Patel. “In The Beginning.” 2019. Watercolor, Acrylic on Paper, 50”x 22 ½”.

RP: What is your preferred way to exhibit and sell your art?
AP: I prefer to sell directly to a client, patron or collector.  Interest in my art may come through my website or by exhibitions or word of mouth.

The studio of St. Louis artist Adrienne L.J. Patel.

The studio of St. Louis artist Adrienne L.J. Patel.

RP: On what are you currently working?
AP: At the moment, I am working on a commissioned painting for a client. When this present work is completed, I have three commissioned paintings to create for another client.

Adrienne L. J. Patel. “Children of Promise and Hope II … it is time – heal our earth.” 2021
Acrylic on Canvas, 3’x4’. $1,800.

Learn more about Adrienne Patel: www.adriennepatelfineart.com


Featured in Art Saint Louis’ “Hope” virtual exhibit: MaryJo Clark, Manchester, MO. “Perennial.” 2020. Mixed Media Collage, Acrylic on Mat Board, 11”x14”. $160 framed.
Artist’s statement: “For me, the technique of collage provides limitless arrangements of elements that can express images, ideas, and/or emotions within a given composition. Additionally, any number of media can be used, in conjunction with collage elements, to enhance or embellish a piece.
I particularly enjoy expressing myself through the non-objective and abstract subject matter of these pieces that, in turn, evoke unique responses from each viewer.”

About the artist: A native of St. Louis, MaryJo Clark is both a collage and a pastel artist. She recently retired from more than 30 years as an art educator. Her non-objective and abstract collage pieces allow her to express herself through endless design arrangements that evoke unique responses from each viewer. When working more representationally, the pastel medium provides the rich pigments of paint with the mark making qualities of other drawing materials.

MaryJo Clark. “Layered Landscape.” 2020. Mixed/Media Collage mounted on Mat Board, 12”x12”. $155.

Roxanne Phillips: Describe your path from deciding you want to be an artist to becoming one.
MaryJo Clark: Pursuing my life-long love of drawing and art, I went to college and got my BA in Art. During that time, I took courses in drawing, painting, printmaking, design, and ceramics. At no time did the notion of teaching ever cross my mind, that is until upon graduation I found myself facing the prospect of gainful employment.  I worked various jobs but I knew I wanted a career in Art, so I went back to school to get my teaching certification. Although I hadn’t planned it, all of the different courses that I’d taken in college put me in an ideal position for often being the only art teacher at a school, and having to teach a variety of art disciplines at multiple grade levels. It took quite a few years before, in addition to teaching, I also began to focus on my own art practice. I began making more art, entering exhibits and eventually becoming a resident gallery artist. I’m now retired and able to devote even more of my time to creating.

MaryJo Clark. “City Street.” 2019. Pastel on Sanded Paper, 14”x18”. $300. 

St. Louis-based artist MaryJo Clark at work in her studio.

Artist MaryJo Clark's studio.

RP: Describe your artistic process/technique
MJC: My early collage pieces usually began with small sketches of simple shapes arranged to create either non-objective or abstract compositions. I then selected papers to create the image in my sketch, taking into consideration colors and textures that worked together to unify the composition. My early pieces usually incorporated the addition of 3-D embellishments, such as beads, tiles and/or buttons to add a dimensional quality to each piece. More recently, I have been using more hand-painted or printed papers along with additional acrylic paint applications to provide shadow and depth within a composition. I often don’t begin with a sketch, but let the selection of papers drive the direction of a piece.

My pastel pieces are driven by particular images or ideas that I get from photos, my own observation and looking at the work of other artists. Some of my pieces are drawn from direct observation, from photos I’ve taken, or from wholly contrived compositions.

MaryJo Clark. “Moonrise.” 2020. Mixed-media Collage on 140 lb. Watercolor Paper, 11”x14”. $160.

RP: What is your preferred way to exhibit and sell your art?
MJC: I began exhibiting my art in various exhibitions throughout the St. Louis area. I entered juried exhibitions, took part in exhibits as an art educator and as a member of Gateway Pastel Artists. I was able to sell a few pieces in this manner but my preferred way is through a gallery.

I’ve been fortunate to be a resident gallery artist, first as a member of the Soulard Art Gallery co-operative, and currently as a resident artist at the Green Door Art Gallery in Webster Groves, MO.
I also have my own website, Facebook and Instagram accounts, and an account with Fine Art America.

MaryJo Clark. “Midwestern Sky.” 2021. Pastel on Sanded Paper, 11”x14”. $260.

Self-Portrait by artist MaryJo Clark.

RP: What advice would you give your younger artist self?

MJC: I would tell my younger artist self to continually engage in the artistic process, and spend more time drawing.

I often found myself allowing my artistic practice to become a low priority, especially as I began my teaching career and raising my family. Through a friend and fellow artist, I began attending regular life drawing sessions offered through the St. Louis Artists’ Guild. That time was so important in providing me with a dedicated time to continue my drawing practice, and to spend time with other artists.

MaryJo Clark. “Calm Before the Storm.” 2021. Mixed Media Collage on Cradle Board, 10”x10”x1”. $130.

RP: What do you find most challenging/rewarding about the creative process?
MJC: For myself, the creative process provides an outlet for my ideas, it keeps me learning, it helps me to focus, and I find it relaxing. That’s not to say that I don’t experience frustrations. There are times in which what’s in my mind and what I create don’t align. Like most artists, there are pieces that I’ve just rejected; but I think that’s part of the learning process.

MaryJo Clark. “Reflections.” Mixed Media Collage mounted on Mat Board, 10”x16”. $160.

When I was teaching, one of the things that I would tell my students was that in art, there’s no one right answer. One of my favorite parts of teaching was presenting a lesson, observing and guiding student progress, and then being so excited to see the individual interpretations by each student in their completed projects.

MaryJo Clark. “Moving Through the World.” 2020. Mixed Media Collage with Citra Solv Papers on Binder’s Board, 12”x12”. $155.

RP: What qualities attract you to other artists’ works?
MJC: I’m drawn to the art of many different artists working in many different media and subject matter. Obviously, I’m drawn to the work of other collage and pastel artists, but I also have an appreciation for artists who work in media in which I’m not at all proficient.

In looking at artwork in museums, galleries or publications there is usually something that initially draws me to a piece. It might be an overall composition, an exceptionally well executed drawing, or an artist’s unique handling of a particular media or subject matter.

St. Louis artist MaryJo Clark.

Learn more about MaryJo Clark: www.clarkart-stl.com and www.facebook.com/clarkart.stl and www.instagram.com/clarkart_stl


Featured in Art Saint Louis' "Hope" virtual exhibit: Sreelatha Varma, Creve Coeur, MO. “Astral Waves.” 2020. Acrylic, Oil, 16”x20”. $350. 
Artist’s statement: “Hope is an inherent part of being a human being. It helps define what we want and what we become. I am truly driven by the desire to understand the collective consciousness in the universe represented by cosmic waves of color, vibration and passion emanating from deep within our souls. These dance ecstatically in the cosmic stage to stimulate our aspirations and our dreams. When we visualize these waves in our subconscious mind, they make a difference to our world by defining new challenges and accomplish them with a driving force.”

About the artist: I am a self-taught artist, physician, yoga teacher, philanthropist, and spiritualist. My two life passions are painting and healing through art and yoga. I have been painting since the age of 16. I’ve traveled widely and spent a lot of time in Europe when I was young which first piqued my interest and appreciation for the most beautiful depictions of our natural world. My art has evolved over the years through a deeply personal journey of soul searching, through which I realized art can manifest a collective consciousness. My main objective is to use art to alleviate tension, suffering, and a disjointed mental state though the harmonious awakening the primal subconscious. My artwork is also meant to represent this dynamic transition which serves as a visual representation of one's shifting life force. Several of my artworks have been recognized widely in galleries and exhibitions.

Artist Sreelatha Varma.

Roxanne Philliips: Why do you make art?
Sreelatha Varma: Of all the artistic endeavors in the world, I am most drawn to the visual arts because they exude both the virtues and natural beauty to liberate oneself of an ego-centric complex and open the mind to humility and giving, causing an intrinsic delight in the observer that can scarcely be achieved with any other medium. I believe great art can be the balm that soothes mankind’s deep and pervasive wounds.

Sreelatha Varma. “The Enlightenment.” 2020. Acrylic, Oil on Canvas, 20”x16”. $350.

RP: What is the biggest point of inspiration for your artwork?
SV: As a spiritualist, I began to understand that my art also had the potential to help inspire action for causes I care deeply about. A solo exhibition of my work titled "The Dream Series" was presented at Grafica Studio, St Louis in March 2017, the proceeds from which helped provide accommodations for visiting families of transplant patients through the Mid America Transplant Foundation. A portion of my painting sales also go to local and international charities through private sales of my artwork (presently funding community outreach at the Hindu Temple of Saint Louis through my artwork).

Sreelatha Varma. “The Tree of Life.” 2021. Acrylic, Oil on Canvas, 30”x40”. $3,500.

RP: What is it that you are most eager to convey through your art. How do you want the viewer to receive or interpret?
SV: My main objective is to use art to alleviate tension, suffering, and a disjointed mental state though the harmonious awakening the primal subconscious. My artwork is also meant to represent this dynamic transition which serves as a visual representation of one's shifting life force.
The core basis of my artwork is the visual depiction of the grace and beauty of creation. All of us are born with the infinite potential for enlightenment but we are all eventually submerged in a veil of ignorance, forgetting who we really are. I seek to manifest such awareness at the forefront of one’s conscious mind through helping observers understand that we are all part of a universal self, using a brilliant color palette to awaken true joy.

Sreelatha Varma's studio.

RP: What is your Dream Studio?
SV: I always wanted to open my own art studio. I want my art studio to be a source of inspiration for the younger generation. When our son was very young, I used to take him to an art studio owned by Sue Hand in Wilkes- Barre, PA. I was very much moved by watching children of all ages in her studio working so intently and learning how to paint. They used to sit there for hours, completely immersed in what they were doing and engrossed in expressing themselves in their truest form. I want my studio not only serve as a means to exhibit my work but also to inspire and create a haven for the younger generation to appreciate and experience the grace, beauty and creativity we take for granted.
As a yoga teacher and spiritualist as well, I also want the space to serve as grounds for self-healing and rejuvenation.

Sreelatha Varma. “Magnum Magnale.” 2021. Acrylic, Oil on Canvas, 30”x40”. $1,500.
This piece was selected for “10th All Women Art Exhibition,” jmane gallery (January 2021).

RP: What are you currently working on?
SV: For my next series of artwork, I want to create paintings of the majestic oceans which directly and indirectly affect our lives and those of our loved ones. When I sit near the ocean and gaze into the waters, I find myself most amenable to a contemplative, meditative state where I can interact with the water in a truly awesome experience. If only I could recreate the magnificent dancing of the waves and the brilliant colors the oceans exhibit, perhaps more hearts can experience the same tranquility, joy and peace.

RP: Has rejection ever affected your creative process?

SV: Yes- my artwork has taken many years to evolve to the point where it has achieved the credibility needed to be adequately received. I welcome critiques as they build the resilience and determination I need to move forward and to create more wonderful artwork.

Sreelatha Varma. “The Lady by the Brook.” 2020. Acrylic, Oil on Canvas, 16”x20”. $450.
This piece won a special recognition award for excellence in art in the “The All Women Art Exhibition” (January 2021) at the Light Space Time Art Gallery.

RP: What is your artistic process and technique?
SV: For some of my most defining effects, I rarely use a brush. Instead, I use my fingers and the palm of my hand for smoothing and layering. I love to apply a blend of vibrant and bold colors to create brilliant color patterns, paralleled with rich texture to build a more immersive piece. I usually only work on one piece at a time so I can give my full attention to creation in a meditative state.

RP: What is the best thing about Saint Louis for your art practice?
SV: I have lived across the U.S. but I’ve always found Saint Louis to be very special. This town has a very creative and passionate spirit and encourages artists to be and do their best and reflect their inner soul. I have developed the most beautiful friendships with like-minded people who appreciate and encourage me in everything I do. I teach yoga to my local community free of charge and the endeavor of opening my heart to their love has made me create more beautiful work. I could never forget the love and appreciation I received when I first gave my art show, The Dream Series, even attracting the attention of the news media and appearing for television interviews!

Sreelatha Varma. “The Creation.” 2020. Acrylic, Oil on Canvas, 24”x18”. $550.
This piece was selected for inclusion in the “6th Annual Colorful Abstractions” December 2020, an online juried art exhibition at Fusion Art, California. This wprl was also selected for the “2021 Small Works-Big Talent” online exhibition at Las Laguna art Gallery, Laguna beach, CA.

RP: What motivates you to continue making art?
SV: The biggest motivation for me is to help humanity in some way. My father was a very noble man who lived a simple life but still endeavored to do as much for charity as possible. He once said to me “make sure you utilize your god given gift of art to best help humanity." He was and still is a constant source of inspiration for me and it has helped me continue my art career through the toughest moments I’ve experienced in life.

RP: What advice would you give your younger artist self?
SV: I would tell the younger generation to paint with passion, and to really open their soul and create free of limitations. Art can then stem from each individual’s brilliance to manifest in a collective source of light that we need to spread far and wide, beyond the horizon, to start creating a beautiful world for ourselves.

Roxanne Phillips
is an artist and art educator based in St. Louis since 2001. She earned a MFA in Printmaking & Drawing from Washington University in St. Louis and BFA in Painting & Drawing from University of North Texas. Roxanne is an adjunct art instructor at Washington University in St. Louis and has worked with Art Saint Louis since 2017 as Administrative Assistant and Installer. From 2018-2020 she was Master Printer for Pele Prints. Her works have been featured in numerous exhibitions throughout the St. Louis region including at Art Saint Louis, Crossroads Art Studio & Gallery, and St. Louis Artists’ Guild. Her work is currently available at Union Studio in St. Louis. She has served as exhibit Juror for several regional exhibits & art fairs. Roxanne is past Board member of St. Louis Women’s Caucus for Art.


Unknown said…
Thank you for these wonderful stories! It helps so much to learn about the artists and how their art expresses so much about their personalities and interests.
Unknown said…
Congratulations everyone! I loved Ms. Sreelatha's spiritual renditions... Thank you for sharing!