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.
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