Her desire for change was so great it sent ripples from one side of the sea to the other….
Janavi Folmsbee’s story begins somewhere deep in the waters near the Lakshadweep Island when she was a teenager about to embark on an experience that would change her life.
She was born into a family of artists in Mumbai, India. She was constantly surrounded by designers and artistic minds that were a source of inspiration. Still, Folmsbee did not feel that she belonged to the city that watched her grow up.
I believe part of that had to do with me being the odd duck–the one Indian girl who, amongst many of my peers, was the only one who wanted to pursue art.”
After graduation, she set out to see the world, determined to find a place that felt like home. She briefly stayed in Chicago, but her hunger to belong kept growing stronger.
As it turned out, her answer lay in an unexpected place.
It dawned on me that I don’t necessarily have a space I belong to anywhere. So, I decided to look in a place where I knew I definitely didn’t belong–the ocean.”
Folmsbee grew up right across the sea. She recalls fondly the faint memories of the jewel-blue water and white sands when she was a teenager. Her mother first introduced Folmsbee to diving. She remembers that first experience as magical, something that gave her a surge of energy. She was surrounded by a strange world, a world where no human belongs, but she felt welcome.
I felt invited to view true natural beauty I had never seen before–exploding colors, shapes, patterns that you couldn’t dream of–and it was the first time in that moment that nothing else mattered.”
The experience inspired a new direction in her art. Slowly, diving became a vital instrument for her work, just as important to her as involvement in promoting marine conservation.
Her paintings began to mirror her diving experiences. Her subjects, as she describes as characters, transformed into marine abstract forms. Her goal became to re-invent each diving experience.
I create paintings to transport the audience to that moment the work originates from. Recreating my experience of that dive underwater with the unbelievable beauty of the marine world.”
Her work is subjective and spiritual, not belonging to a specific culture, but to the world.
Folmsbee has traveled to various major cities around the world, such as Beijing, Amsterdam, Mumbai, Chicago, Dubai, and Houston, where she currently resides. As an international artist, Folmsbee has witnessed the art scene transform from city to city.
It’s interesting how one part of our world, along with socioeconomic changes, can affect another factor like art on the other side of the world. That’s a standing example to show how we are all and will always be globally connected irrespective of how different things are.”
She shares her unique experiences with Mumbai and Houston, both a melting pot of diversity in art. Houston being a city that is constantly expanding has given artists the opportunity to grow and achieve their artistic goals.
Our no-zoning laws help with the procurement of public art, and gives an artist the opportunity to voice the cause that leads their own personal art practice on a grandiose scale.”
Folmsbee fancies Houston’s availability of space and its low cost of living, unlike Manhattan or Mumbai box apartments. “Houston allows one to have a larger space to make their work here, something I personally need.”
One look at Folmsbee’s paintings and you’ll grasp the marine life that inspires her work as an artist. Her style reflects her travels and artistic passions, and addresses universal thoughts and ideas such as climate change. She has developed her own distinct style and exists somewhere under conceptual realism.
As a professional diver, Folmsbee has witnessed first-hand the effects of climate change on marine life, “I am passionate about diving for a cause that needs my voice.”
She recalls an experience in which she was diving with a shark in what was once an impeccable underwater world, and a giant sheet of plastic swam alongside them. “I felt angry in that moment and grabbed that plastic with a fellow diver.”
Now, she is working hard to help people understand the impacts of climate change on the ocean.
“Bangaram is a jewel oasis in the Indian Ocean. I went and finally dived there again in 2015. Its reefs are nearly gone. My work shifted with this in a deeper way than I had ever expected.”
Through her art, she hopes to educate others about how the marine world is being altered. She believes she can make a difference and uses art as a tool to make people aware.
Folmsbee chooses not to focus on negativity, but instead she enhances beauty. She utilizes art as a medium to glorify the fascination of marine life while bringing awareness.
“I want to transport my viewers into an experience that is spiritual and overwhelming, that can give you nothing but happiness and make one appreciate the beauty of the marine world. I wish to recreate the experience of being one with your breath and invited to view something purely beautiful.”
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