Visual Artist Alexandra Nechita Looks Back At Designing 39th GRAMMY Awards Poster At 12
Alexandra Nechita hadn’t even finished middle school when she took on one of the most influential responsibilities associated with the GRAMMY Awards’ identity. At just 12 years old, the child prodigy known then as the "Petite Picasso," with at least 16 exhibitions under her belt and $1.5 million in sales, was commissioned to bring to life the art behind the 39th GRAMMY Awards.
Her painting, named Because You Love What You Do, became the poster art for Music’s Biggest Night and honored musicians’ commitment and passion to their work, simultaneously encapsulating the show’s energy and love of music. At the GRAMMY Awards nomination announcement and poster unveiling a little more than a month before the show on Feb. 26, 1997, a young Nechita was all smiles next to the likes of Jewel, Busta Rhymes and singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega.
The cubist-inspired visual became synonymous with the show in which Eric Clapton took home Record Of The Year, Celine Dion the Album Of the Year and LeAnn Rimes the Best New Artist win—not to mention saw memorable performances from No Doubt and the Fugees.
While her age was at the center of media, Nechita was just doing what she loved. "I just kept making what I felt," she says.
Years later, the artist continues to create. Her latest work of art is a bronze statue called Love Anatomy that is on public display in Beverly Hills, California.
"I’m driven by the power of messaging through the arts and how profoundly engaging imagery can be," she says of her work today. “So, I take my responsibility as an artist seriously and recognize the duty I have in impacting change, at the very least generating conversation”
In an interview over email with GRAMMY.com, Nechita spoke about her vision behind her GRAMMY art, the meaning of her work and what she believes is the role of music and art in society.
What is your first memory with art?
My first memory with art goes as far back as 5 years old. Even from the most tender age I was interested in the act of mark making. I especially loved colors and how it served as a language on its own. I suppose coloring books is where it all started. Eventually I began creating my own version of them and moved on to oil paints soon after.
How has art impacted you?
Art has been one of the most formative agents in my life. It’s moved with me through so many phases of my growth and evolution as a person and citizen of the world. It has undoubtedly been one of the most effective tools in managing my mental health and emotional well-being, while also giving me so much possibility and voice in moments of seemingly impossible confusion and doubt.
How did you get started in your career?
I really think so much of the initial attention surrounding my story was born out of unusual timing—[like] the old adage, right time at the right place! Of course, there was a sensationalism attached to my story given I was a child painting good, large scale canvas, but my passion for my craft exceeded any and all media headlines. I just kept making what I felt.
What does your work aim to do or say?
This is an ever-evolving pursuit. Fundamentally, my work is founded in the storytelling of my own personal experiences and emotional processes. Even though I see my work as very intimate, almost egotistical, I’m driven by the power of messaging through the arts and how profoundly engaging imagery can be. So, I take my responsibility as an artist seriously and recognize the duty I have in impacting change, at the very least generating conversation.....
I’d like to think that an artist's narrative is constantly leaving room for growth and open to changes.
You were 12 in 1997 when your art was the official artwork of the 39th GRAMMY Awards? Do you remember how you felt as a child having that honor?
Do I remember?? I think it's an eternal resonance of pride that echoes through time. I have always had a very deep connection to music, and through the years have never really been able to separate it from my practice. Studio zone doesn’t exist for me without music playing.
What was the inspiration behind the artwork for the show?
The painting I made I called Because You Love What You Do. I made it to honor what I saw as the most honorable part of the musicians work: their commitment to and passion for their music. Seems like the impetus behind any great creative is the very simple concept of being utterly obsessed with what they do.
How has your practice changed since then?
Tremendously. Firstly, I’ve really worked on building and maintaining a closeness and honesty with my work over the years—that is the easiest thing to lose in the face of a lot of noise and attention. I've had to work hard to prioritize a level of authenticity and realness, especially in a world where influence, my skill set has improved of course, and my assertion of who I am in context to my work has really become clear and unapologetic. I confidently make the best thing for me, and then I pass it along.
What are you working on now? Where can people see some of your recent work?
I have been unpacking a lot of feelings I’ve accumulated over this last year and some months during which we all were rattled and disrupted by the pandemic. A lot of painting referencing sequential storytelling, like vignettes. Additionally, I just placed a bronze statue called Love Anatomy in the city of Beverly Hills. Public art has been at the forefront of my agenda and I plan on continuing with public art projects in the future. I love social media and have maintained a healthy relationship with it over the years, so often it is one of the better ways to follow happenings in the studio and, of course, my life.
Do you think music and painting have similarities? If so, what are they?
The connection between music and art is undeniable in my opinion. In fact, I think they go hand-in-hand. Like I mentioned before, for me I am unable to tap into a real creative flow without having music on. I often find myself triggered by a certain sound, song or melody and suddenly have this urge to immortalIze it with line or color. I also know that the creative connection that exists between artists in music or the visual arts is a really meaningful one. We have this real insatiable need to express ourselves.
What is the role of music and art in society?
Man, this is such a loaded question. I feel that generally if you follow the truest part of yourself, you come up with some pretty awesome stuff! I think first and foremost the duty of the artist or the musician is to keep it as real as possible. While acknowledging that that real of theirs might not be mine, it’s no less honorable simply because of its authenticity. Once you sort through that part of the process and are able to really put it to work, your duties are as little or as big as you make them. What’s most beautiful about the arts in any form is that they help us better understand and interpret subjects or people, issues and ideas that are too often reduced by the majority. Artists, writers, musicians, dancers, designers and actors are magical. They help me believe in the impossible.