Wise Woman Wednesdays: Ida Floreak
New Orleans artist Ida Floreak's paintings are immediately striking— the subject matter is usually small in scale, centering on just-this-side of commonplace items that lend the work an intimate feel. Discarded insects, crystals, and leaves all make their way onto the canvas in stunning detail, giving the impression that one has just opened a drawer full of spell-casting ingredients or stumbled across the contents of a child's treasure box. Believing, as we do, that everyday objects hold their own kind of magic, we were quickly taken with her work. We asked Ida about her routine, and her favorite totems— a tall order for an artist who surrounds herself with so many.
How were you first drawn to your art?
I’ve always been interested in biology and nature, but not had the mind of a scientist. Art has been a great way for me to process my disparate interests and questions about the world without necessarily needing to come to definitive answers.
What does it mean to you to live creatively & authentically?
I think it’s largely about doing the most with what’s available— there was a long time before I was about to paint full time that I grappled with that question. How do I call myself an artist when I can’t afford the time I want to paint? I would try to see everything as much through the lens of an artist, so that I could come back to it in the future when I was able to make the work I wanted to be making.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Ernst Haeckel meets Fra Angelico. They watch the sky with their backs to the sunset.
What’s on your current listening rotation?
When I’m doing my best work, just the open window is enough. Otherwise I’ve got Boubacar Traore always. Frank Ocean and Solange are staples. Did you know spotify has a playlist of nature sounds? There’s something so funny but dystopian about that.
What’s one place you can always return to for inspiration?
Any body of water. I grew up going to Maine, so those rocky beaches with tidal pools were my first source of inspiration. I could sit there all day and watch those tiny ecosystems shift with the sunlight. Living down here in the swamp it’s obviously an incredibly different landscape than what I’m familiar with and first loved, but there’s a new kind of wonder in that.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
It depends on the time of year, but I try to be at the studio to take advantage of as much daylight as I can. I can’t stand painting in artificial light. My days start early, coffee at the studio, and an afternoon walk on the levee with my dog. Just painting throughout.
What does the idea of a “wise woman” mean to you? Who represents this for you?
I’m sure y’all hear this one a lot but my mom really defines that for me. She taught me, very early, about the importance of boundaries and independence, about knowing my worth as a person and not putting anyone before that. She really impressed that the only thing you can depend on to get what you need is your own work ethic.
What icon or totem would you choose to represent you and your life?
That’s an interesting question – so much of my work deals with the idea of icons and totems, so it’s something that I think about a lot and is constantly shifting for me. I’ve been obsessed lately with the imagery around smoke and all that it can signify around sanctity, purification, impermanence and destruction. I’ve been trying to work out how to incorporate wisps of smoke into my paintings. That’s not really a totem, of course, but maybe it’s still fitting.
“I feel best when I am surrounded by…”
What wise woman should we interview next?
Monique Champagne of Flambeauxs Candles