Born and raised in Milwaukee Wisconsin, artist Michelle Fazaeli is breaking into the art scene here in the Big Apple, bringing along with her the inspiration and raw talent that made her a success in Ft. Lauderdale’s art community. We caught up with her for an inside look at her art and her transition to the NYC.
How did you get into art?
I never was the smartest kid in class but probably the most creative. I excelled in art classes all my life but never really pursued it. I always dreamed of being an Interior Designer and worked for a general contractor who saw I had talent. He pushed me to do something with that talent so I enrolled myself into the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale where I studied residential design. That education gave me the opportunity to find a better career and I started my own interior design studio where I freelanced design projects of all kinds for over the last 18 years.
From a background as an interior design consultant, how did you make the jump to creating art?
I met my husband in 1999, married in 2002. We were both successful in our fields but when 2008 came we lost our jobs like most people I know. That was a terrible time. We tried to stay afloat for nearly two years with our savings but just couldn’t do it anymore. We nearly divorced over the financial stress. My husband came home one day and said he had an opportunity and that he was going to leave in the morning. I was excited until he told me the opportunity was in Cancun, Mexico! To make a long story short, he left for Cancun and I stayed behind. He flew me there to visit about two months later once he had established himself a bit. I missed him terribly and before I knew it I was back home packing up everything we owned into a container and headed to Cancun.
It was quite the change. We had everything and I didn’t have to work. The only job I had was to work on my tan which got old real quick. I met a Dermatologist shortly after as I was trying to get a tattoo removal. We became best friends and within a few months, I found myself the owner of Medical Spa in Cancun! My husband fronted us all the money and let me loose. Crazy I know. I had no idea what I was doing but I knew how to make something beautiful and how to make money. I found an old abandoned house and my husband thought I had lost it. He didn’t understand why we couldn’t just lease a regular old office space in a medical building like every other medical office. It’s because my vision was bigger.
I didn’t speak the language but somehow managed to pull it off. I designed everything from the actual space to all the literature and even branded our own product line. I was so proud of that accomplishment. About a year after we opened the doctor and I had a falling out. The entire situation was a nightmare and I told my husband I just wanted to go home. He reminded me that I owned a business and said if I can sell it we’ll go back. I must have had an angel watching over me because I sold it a week later!
We moved back to Miami and started fresh. Christmas was around the corner and my husbands family were coming to visit. We were trying to be conservative with the money we had as we were both trying to start up new businesses again. My husband asked me to make his sister something. At first, I was like what? I felt like a child about to do a craft project for a family member. That night we went for a walk on Lincoln Road and I was inspired by something I saw. I went to the art store and bought a couple of pastels and a newspaper. I used the comic section and my first piece of art is framed in my home studio (it’s terrible but funny) and my second piece of art is hanging in his sisters home in NC. Crazy.
I then started getting calls asking if I could draw my friends’ pets. I was doing it for free because it took my mind off of stressful things – then I smartened up real quick. I sold my first piece for $100.00. I started working again in the design industry and soon after I reluctantly participated in an art show where Designers could showcase their own art. I didn’t think my art was good enough and I was embarrassed but I was also curious. That night I was approached by an Interior Designer who loved my work. She said it made her smile and asked if I did commissioned work. I didn’t even know what “commissioned” meant. My husband kind of kicked me under the table and answered “sure she does” as I sat there. That Designer commissioned me for my very first piece of art for a client of hers who was a top executive for Coca-Cola! That changed my life and I haven’t looked back.
When did you realize you could turn art into your profession?
After selling my first commissioned piece of art I started promoting myself on social media and participating in other local art shows & events that supported new artists.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find inspiration in many things. Sayings and quotes, political issues and I absolutely love street art and graffiti.
When I said “I must have had an angel watching over me” when I wanted to leave Cancun, I meant that. Most of my pieces are of angels…my version of an angel which isn’t always innocent. I even tattooed wings on my back. I also love exaggerated things…the curves of a woman’s body for example. I find inspiration through life experiences both good and bad especially love.
Several years ago I had a surgery that left me scarred. It’s always been a big insecurity for me and sometimes I create pieces based on how I’m feeling about life or my body. I didn’t realize how many women I would touch by doing pieces based on my struggles and feelings. So many of us share the same issues. I guess creating art out of insecurities helps me deal with it and to find beauty in imperfections.
How would you describe your art?
Whimsical and edgy for the most part but some pieces are pretty deep depending on the message.
What do you think about the NYC art scene compared to the Miami art scene?
I had my own studio in a tiny little arts district in Ft. Lauderdale called Fat Village. I loved it. It was an amazing feeling to be open to the public for art walks and have strangers just walk in and buy your work. I sold a ton of prints and got noticed through local news and magazine publications. NYC is tough. The galleries here don’t give you the time of day and seem to only show European Artists. That I don’t understand when there are SO many talented artists here.
I work mostly by word of mouth and referrals anyway but I will continue to pursue my NYC dream of having a solo art exhibit in a local gallery. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll have my own gallery.
What do you think your style of art can bring to the NYC art scene?
My art is perfect for NYC. It’s edgy, colorful and definitely a conversation piece. I’ve been blessed to work with several interior designers in the city who love my work for their personal projects. Not only is my art perfect for residential projects but even more so for public spaces such as restaurants and hotels.
Learn more about Michelle and her past and current projects at Mishuart.com.