From partially losing her sight to type 1 diabetes to having her heart broken, Jersey City Heights artist Bojana Coklyat has been through her share of trials.
Next week, the 34-year-old will share paintings born from her personal journey in her solo show “From Home to Heartbreak and Back” at restaurant, bar and art gallery LITM.
The past five years have been a wild ride for Coklyat. In 2008, she became legally blind when diabetes caused blood vessels in her eyes to burst. In 2011, she received a kidney and pancreas transplant that changed her life, allowing her to live without dialysis and insulin injections as well as allowing her to keep some of her sight.
Other adventures include teaching art at St. Joseph’s School for the Blind, going back to study fine arts at New Jersey City University (she hopes to eventually be an art therapist) and a few relationships, good and bad.
“My health has improved, I’ve adjusted to my vision, I’m back in school which has been a huge goal for years, I’m in a happy, healthy relationship…all these things are coming together,” says Coklyat. “And I’ve noticed that in the past year, my work has a similar feel to my stuff from the past couple years but there’s definitely a lighter feel.”
Before, Coklyat’s female figures, rendered in her signature bold, moody lines, often cast their eyes down. Now, they look viewers square in the eye.
“To me it signifies more of a comfortable confidence,” she says. “There’s something different going on. A lot of my stuff in the past couple months are much lighter, sweeter. Even my color palette is lighter with pastel blues and white…I’m letting go a little bit more, letting myself be looser with the brushstrokes and lines…there’s more joyful energy.”
Alongside her happier paintings, the artist is also going to show some of her “hurt” paintings, dark works that she says actually have helped her find hope and healing.
“The show spans from 2009 to now and in that time I’ve had two relationships and two break-ups. One happened after my transplant, which was really hard, devastating and crushing. It’s funny because I felt it should be the happiest time of my life but I was just crying all over Jersey City!” she says with a laugh.
“The paintings I do out of catharsis, they’re so dark. I was looking at them recently and I thought, ‘I don’t need to keep these hurt paintings anymore.’ I have some from 10 years ago and I thought, ‘I’m not carrying this around anymore!’ And I painted over them. I painted funny, happy, sexy paintings.
“I am taking all the old hurt and changing it around. I am molding these paintings into something more current with how I feel now. All those paintings and experiences are part of me and make me who I am now but I am able to transcend them and turn them into something positive,” she says.
Earlier this year, Coklyat’s ability to overcome adversity (and a tip from LITM curator Andrea Morin) got her a spot in an art show that was videotaped for “Girls Interrupted,” a reality show pilot that might find its way onto Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network.
At the show in New York City, which was organized by You Are a Warrior, which aims to help people connect socially to find healing, Coklyat and several others shared their stories about overcoming things like Hurricane Sandy, cancer or being transgender.
Coklyat also works with visually impaired kids ages 3 to 21 at St. Joseph’s, which will have a juried art show for high schoolers in Hudson County next year. She is also helping to curate a show for the Jersey City Artists Studio Tour at the school in October.
“From Home to Heartbreak and Back” opens Tuesday, Aug. 6 with a reception at 7 pm at LITM, 140 Newark Ave. For more information, visit Coklyat’s website.
article by Summer Hortillosa for the Jersey City Independent