Marie-Soraya Bodorff (she goes by Soraya) is an artist who plays with color in a very musical way.  Her canvases are delightful creations that seem reminiscent of great artists from the past.  However, she has her own, unique voice.  Here’s our cool chat…

“I almost don't want to lose my work. They are my friends. When I'm surrounded by them, I feel happy … I can compare them to a love affair that doesn't go wrong.” 

MICHAEL: Hey Soraya, I see so many influences in your work ... Picasso, Cubism, some Max Beckmann, some Kandinsky, etc.  I get the feeling you have spent a lot of time looking at art in museums, No?

SORAYA: Yes, I have spent time in them over the years, but I draw my own visions according to what I see on the canvas or through the paint. I think the influences that are reminiscent of those famous artists must linger in my subconscious mind as I am not drafting any sketches or looking at their work to emulate a specific style. I do all my work freestyle so to speak.

MICHAEL: What does "free style" mean for you?  Does it mean that you just walk up to a blank canvas and start painting? What happens inside of you when you do this?  What do you feel and think about?

SORAYA: Yes, that is precisely what it means to me. The composition evolves through quick movements which become forms or shapes. I use my imagination to bring certain visions to fruition. Most of the time, I feel a sense of magic and excitement while creating. I tend to lose myself in a dialogue that I believe I create and I feel transported into an exciting place, one that makes me smile and sometimes dance. 

MICHAEL: Your paintings are very vivid and colorful and they also look like they're inspired by music.  Party music!  Do you listen to music while you paint?  What kind?  What does music do for you?

SORAYA: You're right. I rarely paint without listening to usually high energy, Salsa music. Music that motivates me to move and feel a vibrancy and a frequency. I think I use bright colors because I'm attracted to the sense of pop. Music is what happy is with sound or can be a myriad of feelings that evoke a reaction or create a mood, just as does visual imagery . I see it like candy. I like it sweet. 

MICHAEL:  Music, vibrancy and frequency are all about motion.  How do you create a sense of motion in a static painting? Should paintings actually move?  Assuming they could ...

SORAYA: I create a sense of motion by creating forms, shapes and texture while I apply the paint. I step back often to look deeper into the scene and can then bring forth what I envision. The motion that is created is reminiscent of how the late Jackson Pollack worked. However, I am not dripping or throwing paint and then reworking it. I am deconstructing what I see while the movement I create comes to fruition. I enjoy working this way because each time there is a sense of surprise as to what will come to the surface. Although a lot of work has a similar look and stylization, the imagery is not copied or repeated on purpose. I can say that’s why I say freestyle painting. 

In addition to the freedom I feel about not being confined to rendering an object, I see in front of me a reality I choose to create; imagery using imagination creativity and in a way that shows action. I think it would be great if paintings could move if done artfully, I haven't tapped into that yet as I am an old school painter or so it seems to me. I would like to incorporate mixed media in the future. 

MICHAEL: Do you come from an artistic family?  Where does this dedication to painting come from?  Did you grow up with art?

SORAYA: Yes, I do come from an artistic background. My mother was a painter and my great aunt was the first female architect in Sweden. We also have a few musicians. Growing up, fantasy prevailed over reality. I was encouraged to go to art school by my grandmother who is an art supporter and I think she saw a bit of her deceased sister in me. My family also collects art, so I was surrounded by it most my life. I had the opportunity to travel abroad as a youth and later in life. 

Some of my work is influenced by travels. I focus on the energy and visuals I have seen and incorporate them into my work. Sometimes I take in certain scenarios based on reality when I reflect into the work created. It is almost as if I am recreating an experience with my painting. The dedication to painting and art making comes from my relationship with creating the work. It is one of my most favorite things to do and I feel alive and introspective when I make it. It also comes natural most of the time, so it's pure enjoyment. Purity and the act of creating to create something beautiful to me is priceless. That's why I have a hard time with pricing and selling. I almost don't want to lose my work. They are my friends. When I'm surrounded by them, I feel happy. I can look into them for long periods of time, even if it has been years after creating them. I can compare them to a love affair that doesn't go wrong. Most of them are a part of me. 

MICHAEL: When you are painting, is it more important for you to capture the representation of things or the moods and emotions that they evoke?

SORAYA: It is a combination of both. When the creation starts coming to fruition, I usually add the color palette I feel is suited depending on the mood that speaks to me. The music I listen to also reflects what I might feel as well. I oftentimes listen to upbeat music, but not always. I find that jazz carries me through a long way through the stages of art making. Miles Davis and John Coltrane have been around my space for some time. Sometimes I see music in my paintings. I saw a riff appear in one of my recent works and that surprised me. 

MICHAEL: Very cool.  When I look at your work, I'm reminded that it's best that people look at art with their own eyes first - before they get educated about art.  Your work is a fantastic example of childlike wonder which can lead someone into having a lifelong relationship with art.  What do you think about this?

SORAYA: I like what you have to say. I do feel like I will have a lifetime relationship. Also, it seems like I can't let go of the pieces either so most likely I keep them forever too? Who knows? I think it's best to let the viewer move through the work and either enjoy it or not. I get the feeling as I've had several shows, people don't talk about what they see or aren't attracted to it. I get a lot of different responses or none at all you know. But, I had a teacher call me coloring book girl once!

MICHAEL: Cool. What do you think about the art world and art market today?  Many living artists are struggling while the works of famous, dead artists are selling for millions of dollars.

SORAYA:  It seems like to me that's the way it has been in the art world. Don't they say you have to die first before you get recognized to that level? I find that my experience has been that if you're not following a trend or gimmick in the mainstream, you don’t appeal to the public much. I get that often. For example, “I would have loved to show your work five years ago,” was a recent gallery comment.

So in many ways, what I'm doing isn't current or appreciated because its reached an expiration date. So much of what I see out there is devoid of depth in my opinion, but as they say, art is subjective. Mostly, I think people want to be entertained by art; what's the message? I believe it has been confused and stripped. As far as all of us poor artists, well, that doesn't seem to change much. I feel like it's status quo. 

The famous dead artists selling for millions is a reminder that irony is a huge part of life and perhaps when you die, you really do go to a better place in a metaphorical sense as they have achieved recognition and wealth beyond their wildest imaginations, but they are dead, so it's ironic. I will never fully understand who gets to decide the worth of a piece of art. Okay, so yeah, political artists sure makes sense. I get the Picasso angle, but how many of him are there? He certainly got to live the lifetime dream of being able to be a working artist. Can I say jealous much? I often wish I were born in a different time or country, perhaps part of a movement. You never know there is still time left, I hope. 

MICHAEL: That situation won't change until the general public gets educated about art.  Too many people are profiting from the lack of knowledge among the public.  So, how are you surviving as an artist?  Are you a full-time artist?  Do you regret your decision to become an artist?

SORAYA: I survive off odd jobs. I have been in the corporate scene and also beauty industry. I have what I need.  Unfortunately, I cannot concentrate my full attention to the pursuit. I often dream and fantasize about being able to live that laissez faire life, but I am in no position to ignore the reality although when I m working I feel this is my true self, my identity in a way feels reinforced. I don't regret it, but it has definitely been a slippery slope. My first art teacher told me it was a shady lane to drive in, but it seems art chose me and took me in. I became so absorbed in the beginning of my art making that I almost felt it was like a drug to me. I regret only that I cannot live a simple life following my passions and not having to worry about finances, but isn't that the gripe of most people? 

MICHAEL: It most certainly is the gripe of many people.  Is it important that people see your work the way that you do?  I mean, if you're pouring your true self into your work, shouldn't people see what you see or not?

SORAYA: I sometimes think they can't see what I see when I explain it. Sometimes they do. I think I sometimes keep some of the emotional veracity to myself. As far as it being important I'm not so sure. It feels amazing to hear people say how much they see in them, but that's a rarity so when I do hear it, it's gratifying. What is important is that they can make someone smile and see something they haven't or perhaps create wonder or curiosity. I like the idea that it can spark intrigue. I see some of my work as puzzle pieces in a way. 

MICHAEL: Finally, what's the point of art?  Shouldn't we be talking about world peace or a cure for cancer or at least ways to get more jobs for people?  What can art do in the world?  Isn't it just for rich people with beautiful houses?

SORAYA: I think the point of art is to enrich, expand and strengthen the human experience. It may not be identified as a legitimate pursuit or serve a purpose other than décor, but I disagree. Most people do see it as an accessory or investment. What can I do about it? I can't imagine what this world would be without it although I see your point. It's not functional or a necessity. I don't really have the answers other than what I said above.

I do think we should be talking about heavier topics that do have an imminent effect on humanity. I'm game. I stick by my original statement that I believe self-expression and creating beauty in the world by creating art and spreading it around can create happiness. I think art is not only for the rich. Although they seem to have monopolized the stereotype that it is an elitist undertaking to collect. I'd like to see more public art. I think that's another way to stimulate everyone and share creative visions that enhance lives. I think outdoor sculpture surprises and excites me especially when found or seen in unexpected locations. I think of how cold and plain downtown areas would be if there weren’t a sculpture here or there. It's almost the same as if there were not trees or grass. I'd like to be involved in projects in the future that can give to the masses in public spaces. It also reminds us of intelligent life. 

MICHAEL: Thanks Soraya.  Great chat.

SORAYA: Thank you! I really enjoyed it too.

Check out Soraya Bodorff at