Maria Ojascastro teaches children and adults as a Design/Visual Arts faculty member for the Center of Creative Arts and as a private instructor from her home studio in St. Louis. Her heritage and family inspires much of what she does, especially her three sons, one who is a cancer survivor, and all three who are now thriving with the diagnosis of Asperger’s. These personal challenges have led to specialized workshops she created for individuals whose lives have been touched by trauma, cancer, or atypical children. She’s presented workshops for many educational and cultural institutions including the Kemper Art Museum, The Missouri Mental Health Counselors Association (via live national webcast) and the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma. She also teaches art to individuals whose lives have been touched by cancer at the Siteman Cancer Center, the Cancer Support Community and St. Anthony’s Cancer Center.
In 2014, Maria’s art was featured in a two-person exhibit in the Millstone Gallery at the Center of Creative Arts, entitled “Breathe.” “Breathe” was an exhibit of recently created works that layered prints, paint, text, and found objects as a meditation on resilience, salvaged from the relics of interrupted journeys. She received a Masters of Fine Arts from Washington University in St. Louis; studied in Santa Reparata International School of Art in Florence, Italy; and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana.
1. What’s your medium of choice and what do you love about it?
I love printmaking… I studied printmaking, I think like a printmaker, I create like a printmaker, but I don’t have a printing press in my studio. So I often draw and paint on top of old prints and layer them in my work. Whether I’m painting, drawing, or melting encaustic wax, the elements I love about printmaking — textures, colors, layers and unpredictable results — make their way into my art.
2. What are you working on right now? What’s on your camera/desk/easel or in your studio?
I taught a few of my private art students this summer how to make fairy gardens. So now I’m making a couple fairy gardens in old terra cotta pots for myself. It’s not something I planned on, or even pictured myself enjoying. But when a mom asked me to teach her two kids how to make fairy gardens, I couldn’t help but enjoy the whimsical nature of miniature furniture, sparkly gems, and pretty colors. It is a fun mini project for me.
3. What practices/activities are most valuable to your creative process?
Going somewhere new or trying something new gets my creativity going. I’ve been doing a lot of college visits for my twins, who are senior high school students. I also recently brought all three of my sons to a zip line/adventure course to celebrate my youngest son’s 15th birthday. If I move my body — to another city or just zipping across the forest — my mind works better.
4. What’s one thing do you want to share with others about your art and/or process?
I often hate my art before I love it.
5. What advice would you give to your young artist self?
If you are going to get a degree in art, study something practical also — business, education, etc. If you are going to do something practical, also do something creative — dance, write, play an instrument etc. The left brain and right brain are equally important.
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