When there was talk of war in Bosnia in the summer of 1992, Maja Cunningham (née Pavlić), then 12 years old, took a bus trip through war-torn Croatia to stay with her aunt for two weeks until things “settled down.”
“No one thought the war would last long—but my short trip turned into eight years,” says Maja, now 37. When Maja became a war refugee as a pre-teen in Mainz, Germany, all she had was a bag of clothes and her homework. Maja’s mother stayed in Bosnia, and they didn’t see each other for the remainder of the war. Maja felt like a stranger in Germany, but gradually built a new life there, learned the language, and began studying architecture as an apprentice at age 16.
Then at age 20, Maja moved to Texas—once again with just one bag of belongings—to live with her cousin who had immigrated there. “When I moved to the U.S., I was basically a mute for the first six months, and my cousin spoke for me,” Maja explains. “After six months, she said, ‘I’m so over this.’” Out of necessity, Maja quickly taught herself English and became fluent within a year. That’s when Maya started studying architectural design at University of Texas at Arlington. Upon graduation, she landed a job as an architect for a prestigious firm and enjoyed learning the field.
“That’s one fast bike, said the cloud” by Maja Cunningham
Fast-forward several years and Maja married a Texan, had her son Jack in 2014, and started decorating her son’s room. When she couldn’t find art that felt personal to her, she made her own. She created “That’s one fast bike, said the cloud” based on her honeymoon adventure she’d taken with her husband, entered the painting into a Minted art challenge, and the rest is history—sort of. After working for nearly 20 years in architecture, Maja realized that her heart just wasn’t in it. Now Maja is a full-time parent and artist and couldn’t be happier. “I don’t regret anything because it leads me to where I am now,” she says. “Because I’ve been through so much in the first three decades of my life, I really want to live a stress-free life now. Things that matter to me are health and my family’s happiness. I know it could all be taken away in a second.”
Andrew McClintock is a big guy who makes big art for a big world. “But I also have a passion for little trees.” His words—not ours.
At 6 foot 7, Andrew’s definitely tall, and because he creates illustrations and photographs intended to be viewed in an oversize art print format, Andrew holds true to his claim. As for his interest in small trees, Andrew’s newfound hobby is bonsai. “Maybe I was inspired by The Karate Kid in the ’90s,” he says.
By day, Andrew works as the lead web designer for a Drupal agency—alongside his wife, Kathryn, who’s a front-end developer—and in his spare time, he’s a Minted artist who creates illustrations on his Wacom tablet and takes photos during work trips to places like Cape Town, South Africa, and Zurich, Switzerland. For some of Andrew’s digital art, he combines photography and illustration; for others, he’ll assemble elements from several photographs, emphasizing contrast and adding pixels. “Trumpets at Noon” by Andrew McClintock
Of his photograph “Trumpets at Noon,” which was taken in Prague, Andrew points out that a viewer can see so much more detail in an oversize format. “You can see the changing of the guards during the ceremony, and in the little windows, you can clearly see the men playing instruments.”
When we asked Andrew how he learned graphic design, he explained that he’s self-taught, and attributes his talent to his creative parents. “My mom was Pinterest before the Internet existed. Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, all the neighborhood moms would ask her to make Halloween costumes and wreaths—she was the go-to for anything creative.”
Kaitlin Rebesco entered the world of photography at age 23 by wandering the streets of New York and taking pictures of everything around her. From there, in 2011, she moved to Paris for a year to study photojournalism at Spéos Photographic Institute. As she explains it, photojournalism became a form of meditation. “In order to capture the decisive moment, I had to be extremely focused and completely present,” Kaitlin says of her time studying the city and people in the City of Light. “I enjoy the mental clarity of the photojournalistic process as well as the resulting image, which is always original because it’s a moment captured in time—it has never happened before and will never happen again.”
After fully investing herself in photojournalism for three years, she began to crave more of a creative outlet. “I wanted to create images that I could put up on my wall. I started getting more and more into fine art photography and I was hooked,” Kaitlin says, upon moving to Austin, Texas, in 2015.
Kaitlin still enjoys traveling and documenting, but she now works full time as a fine art photographer. She describes her work as using her immediate surroundings as a starting point and then re-imagining the architecture or landscape in a way that feels foreign yet familiar. As she develops her creative path, she still incorporates some of the lessons she learned in photojournalism—the most important of which is patience. “I would look at a photograph like it was a scene in a play. The street was the stage; once I found an interesting backdrop, I would wait for people or characters to enter and the action to unfold,” she says. “This often requires a lot of waiting in order to capture the perfect moment.” Photojournalism helped Kaitlin to slow down her photo-taking process, which, in turn, has helped her to take fewer but better photographs.
Kaitlin Rebesco took this photo, “Ephemeral,” during an early morning walk in Austin, Texas. “Fog covered the landscape, and the city was completely transformed,” she writes. “It was a reminder that nothing is static; everything is in a constant state of change. Even the landscape, which I was used to seeing in a certain way, could become something different in an instant.”
About the Author: Amy Schroeder, Minted’s Community Content Manager, founded Venus, the magazine about women in the arts and DIY culture, and has written for Etsy, West Elm, Pitchfork, and NYLON. Connect on Instagram @thevenuslady.
Published August 15, 2017Comments Off on Texas Minted Artists to Watch