About the Artist
Clara Lemos (b. 1980) is a Portuguese self-taught abstract artist based in Boston, MA. With a master’s degree in nutrition sciences and a PhD in human biology, she’s forged a successful career as a cancer researcher for two decades. In 2021, amidst a pandemic and maternity leave, she discovered a profound passion for creating art, which has since become her life-changing mission.
Clara’s abstract minimalism has a strong focus on neutral and monochromatic tones and is often enriched by a variety of textures. Her apparently silent paintings hide countless layers of mark-making, collages, and textures. They are allusive to the urban roughness of Berlin and other cities that deeply influenced Clara’s aesthetic. In their essence, they are a metaphor for the personal traits that Clara appreciates the most: quietness and self-reflection hiding a deep, kind, and compassionate core that needs to be discovered. Clara’s interpretation of minimalism is not emptiness, but rather introspection; it’s about the silence that precedes a meaningful conversation and an invitation to look beyond the surface.
In your artist statement, you mention that art is a newfound passion of yours. When did this spark first come to your attention? And did it emerge in tandem with your interest in science?
I would say that art itself is not really a new passion, but creating my own art certainly is. I definitely don’t remember being very “artistic” as a child, but I did develop a profound interest in art, fashion and design very early in my adult life (late teens/early 20s). But for many years, my interest in art was purely as a spectator and it didn’t cross my mind to create anything myself. However, everything changed in January 2021. Back then I was on maternity leave in the middle of a global pandemic, and this offered me a lot more free time than I have ever had before. So, I thought it would make sense to try out a new hobby. Importantly, I was looking for something very practical and intuitive, and exploring acrylic painting seemed a fitting possibility. I did some research, watched many tutorials, ordered basic supplies, and got my hands dirty. A week later, I was completely addicted. I spent all my evenings, after putting my son to sleep, painting, exploring, learning, experimenting. After my maternity leave and going back to a full time job with a toddler at home, my productivity and engagement suffered a bit, but creating art has been a priority ever since.
As for science, that has been a life-long passion and mission. I have wanted to be a scientist for as long as I can remember. Early in school, I loved biology and chemistry and it was clear for me that my professional life would be strongly influenced by that. Back then, being an artist was nothing that I possibly considered or even wished for. So, science definitely came first and art followed a few years later.
There are pieces in this exhibit that are Somerville specific. What was your inspiration for this series? I lived in Berlin, Germany, for many years and moved to Somerville in the beginning of 2022. At the time of that move I stopped painting for almost 5 months, as I was too busy with many other things and had my painting supplies packed up in some box. When I finally got back to my home studio here in Somerville, I wanted to create a series of paintings celebrating this city. So, the first 10 paintings created between March and June 2022 belong to the Somerville series, No.1 - 10. Interestingly, when we picked our house in Somerville, we knew next to nothing about this town, other than it was close to Cambridge where my office is located. But just a couple of months after moving here, I started realizing how lucky we had been with our naïve choice – the density of artists, exhibitions, art initiatives and festivals are just incredible. Two years later, we are even happier with our choice and really enjoy living here. I feel like Somerville has inspired me to continue my artistic journey and I have a very strong sense of belonging here.
Your work has a subtle intention that focuses on introspection and calmness that looks beyond the surface. In developing your creative practice, do you find there are similar parallels in your work-life as a scientist? If so, what are they?
I believe that my work as a scientist and as an artist strongly complement each other. As a scientist, I am very structured and organized, patient, rational. As an artist, I allow my emotions and intuition to flow. For my own inner balance, it is so important to even out my intellectual work with something more spontaneous and immediate. One of the aspects that I really love about my work as an artist is the profound sense of accomplishment at the end of each piece. The time and energy that one invests is rewarded right there and it is palpable. This is very different in science, where one can go days, weeks, months, without anything concrete achieved. I don’t necessarily believe that one is better than the other, but I have no doubt that having both makes for a healthier me. I’ve been asked this question before and I initially saw these two parts of my life/work quite separated. However, I’m more and more convinced that the scientist and the artist in me influence each other. For example, I’m very much drawn to geometric shapes and lines in my paintings and my “random” marks are rarely as random as they look – I think that this reflects my very organized and rational mind. On the other hand, I believe that the more intuitive/creative and introspective aspects of my artistic persona influence my problem-solving skills when it comes to scientific questions – they help me find solutions and ideas that logic alone wouldn’t find.
Creating art has become a life-changing passion and mission for you. How has this influenced your personal and work life; and how do you see these changes impacting you as you evolve as an artist?
When it comes to balancing my artistic work with a full-time job in a corporate environment and a lovely 3-year-old full of energy at home, I must say that TIME is never enough. A part of me feels like I’m always compromising too much and that I’m not doing anything well enough. But if I look beyond my (overly) self-criticizing self, I can see the positive impact that creating art has in my life. Time spent in the studio often feels like meditation – as mentioned above, creating art helps me find balance and relieves a lot of stress. It also brings joy and happiness when things at my day-job feel less positive.
Regarding my personal life, I’m lucky to have an incredibly supportive husband who helps me find the time and the peace of mind to go to the studio and have my creative moments. Additionally, I introduced my son to art as soon as he could hold a brush and we spend a lot of quality time together in the studio. I even let him make some marks in some of my paintings and this love for art is something that brings us very close to each other.
About the Inside-Out Gallery
Initiated in 2009, The Inside-Out Gallery is located in the CVS Window in Davis Square, a unique space that allows the public to view an eclectic array of works from artists and local organizations each month. The mission of the Somerville Arts Council is to cultivate and celebrate the creative expressions of the Somerville community. Through innovative collaborations and quality programming we work to make the arts an integral part of life reflective of our diverse city.