Anatola is a mixed-media artist and filmmaker in New York City. Her art serves as a medium of communication for a diverse array of people. Through paint, video, and digital design, she converts messages of peace, liberation, oneness, spiritual concepts, and otherworldly dimensions into form. Anatola talked to The Power Thread about the challenges of filmmaking and how she deals with compromises. Read on to see her wisdom about power and authenticity.
How did growing up in New York shape your art practice?
I moved around a lot in the U.S. and Asia as a young child. I was born in San Francisco, California and moved to India, Boston, and New Haven all before the age of five. I then moved to the lower east side of Manhattan, where I grew up. New York City has been a very exciting and happy home. Looking back, I could not be more grateful to have grown up in New York. Going to NYU and meeting people from all over the country and world, I realized that New York has a unique way of life and energy. I was given so much independence and freedom at a very young age; I was on the subway and walking all around the city by myself. There is also an abundance of art opportunities for young people in the city, which I am thankful for. From acting in non-profit youth theater organizations to painting in teen art classes at the MoMA, growing up in New York has truly shaped who I am today.
Tell me about projects you are working on right now!
I just finished post production on a short film called Land Beyond the Veil, which I wrote, directed, and produced in Paris this summer. I am really proud of the outcome. Everyone who was a part of it from the actors to the music composition to the art and sound design was amazing. It is a sci-fi experimental film featuring an all black cast. The story is about a young woman who uses virtual reality to connect with her mother, who only exists in a higher-alternate dimension. When forced to choose between the two worlds, which will she choose? It is similar to Black Mirror or Electric Dream, with the visual aesthetics of a fashion film. It is loosely inspired by my own experience with my mom.
What are some challenges you face as a filmmaker?
The biggest challenge for me is balancing dreams with reality. Film, just like any art, starts off as an idea. I have a vision of the story, how it is going to look, settings and locations, and the people I want to be in it. Then I have to translate it into the real world, figure out the logistics, and execute it often with limited resources. Scheduling, budgeting…it is all about how to make the most out of what I have.
So how do you deal with compromises you have to make?
There is an art to making an original idea come to life in the most effective yet efficient way possible. Sometimes I think of very crazy scenarios and visuals: like the protagonist flying up into space or discovering an underwater world. With limited options of locations, sets, and special effects, I have to find ways to make it look like magic when it is just a green screen or make-believe.
Are there artists who inspired you on your journey?
I am inspired by artists and filmmakers whose work serves a larger purpose. During my gap year before I started studying film at NYU, I watched a short film by Alma Har’el called Jellywolf that really influenced me. It is a sci-fi, surreal, and women-focused film. It is visually stunning and has an important message about females being authentically themselves, while still having a mystical element.
I resonate most with films that are other-worldly, because whenever I think of a story, I tend to imagine scenarios that are based in an ethereal alternate universe. I am also inspired by FKA Twigs. She is a musician, but the music videos she has directed exemplify vision and artistry. All the details in her videos are poetic and intentional.
Do you think it is important to have artists that you can look up to?
Yes, I do. That is why inclusion and representation are so important, especially for women of color. It creates a sense of hope to see there are people who are like you paving the way. When an artist comes onto the scene that disrupts social norms and unspoken rules, you realize you might be unconventional in that same way, and you think wow, I can do that too.
What are some daily wisdoms you practice?
Something I have been learning and implementing recently is that I am always “whole, complete, and perfect” in the now. Even if you are striving to change something about your life, you are still whole, complete, and perfect in the present moment. Mindfulness is also very important, like seeing myself as my own friend. Trusting myself to make the right decisions can be very powerful.
How do you define power and what makes you powerful?
My power comes from being rooted in my authenticity. When I am grounded in my truth, then the perspective and direction I am going in becomes more powerful. Whereas when I don’t trust myself and believe what other people tell me to think, I lose power. There will always be perspectives that are different than your own, that’s why it is important to speak to your true self. That will naturally gravitate other people toward you, because you are holding space for them to be powerful too. Meditation is a great way to touch base with yourself and quiet your mind of unhelpful or negative thoughts.
Is there anything that gives you power when you need it?
Right now I am wearing a highlighter from IMAN Cosmetics. It is so sparkly. It is from a female-founded company that produced the first make-up line for people of color. Beautiful, healthy makeup for people with all skin-tones, through dark, medium to bronze and everything in between.
I am also really into crystal jewelry that feels meaningful to me. Purple is my favorite color, so I love this amethyst ring I am wearing. A lot of my jewelry is hand-made with meaning and purpose in mind.