Artist Spotlight: Natalie Boburka

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Natalie Boburka cares passionately about the earth.

A conceptual artist, Boburka utilizes different mediums and techniques to create series that explore our human connection to the natural world, gender, politics, and each other. She’s currently showing her work in 10 shows across the capital region, including 2 solo shows at the Westerlo and Saugerties libraries, while also coordinating community arts events, teaching private art classes, and continuing to work on her concept series exploring color, textures and shape.

Natalie and Laura exploring the studio.

Jim and I drove out to Natalie and her husband Ted’s 1826 brick house and studio in Greenville to catch up. As colleagues from our years together in public schools, Natalie has always been someone I consider a heart-centered friend. Just seeing her greet our car as we pulled into the driveway, I felt my spirits lift and I forgot to grab the flowers I had brought her, instead engaging in a long overdue hug.

While I had always loved Natalie’s art, and I’ve traveled to a few different studios she’s had over the years to enjoy her work, I haven’t ever seen her studio with work in progress, and I was excited to see the drawings transformed into paintings. Natalie walked me through her “Shapes and Relationships” series, a concept that she explored during the COVID-19 pandemic first with small drawings that she later expanded into larger canvas paintings. They were unusual for her as they didn’t have much color in them, much like her life during the pandemic. The paintings explored how she survived the time isolated from the world with her long-time partner and husband, Ted Boburka. 

Natalie and Ted outside their historic homestead.

Her work was both at once intimate and distant, embracing the feelings she experienced but showing her disconnect from the world at the time. This work emerged into her current series, “Silver Lining,” the paintings I’ve been stalking on social media. “I indulged in some hope, color and optimism about life after the pandemic,” she explained as I looked closely at the decadent golds, silvers, and ink patterning on canvas.

I never studied art, but standing there looking at the new series, I felt the hope and some sense of awe in her ability to create such sensual pieces with natural materials. Natalie encouraged me to explore the corners of her studio then, and I stumbled through the nooks and crannies with wonder. A wall of tiles created from the natural world, layer upon layer of leaves, flowers, shell prints, and even discarded rubbish from others created a wall of color that my fingers longed to touch. My mind was floating through beachside vacations, flower-filled gardens, and an aged forest as Natalie explained how she layered acrylics upon plaster, wiping them away and applying them again to create a sense of nostalgia. I shared that I wished I could create pieces like that, holding both memory and beauty. “But you can!” she reassured me, ever the optimist for her art students.

Art in the studio

Another corner, which Jim felt was definitively feminine, showcased female models splashed with color. The sculptures were in tune with mother earth and the female spirit, bursting with color and natural textures. Her work was comforting and also empowering. We sat at a table there and paused, drinking in the good vibes.

But my eyes kept jumping to another corner of the studio, and I finally asked Natalie about the artwork with the flags. “Oh, that’s my political work,” she explained. The multimedia series of pieces reflected her understanding of how humans chose to turn to war for solutions rather than peace, and the harm it did to the earth. As I stood in front of one particularly painful piece, squinting back my emotion, Natalie shared, “Anselm Kiefer inspired that one. We found the wood washed up in the Hudson, those pieces there.” When I murmured that it spoke to me about the world we grew up in, she stated, “It should. We are about the same age, and we grew up with war.” She walked me through the series, first as a young child optimistic that the world would and could choose peace, to the more jaded pieces of how children were raised to feed the war machine.

Art in the studio

The studio was filled with corners to explore, although Natalie noted that many of her pieces are currently out on display at different shows. Her “Idealistic Machines” series is on a solo show at Westerlo Library, so she handed me pictures of the series meant to inspire solutions to the problems humans face. 

We went upstairs to her husband’s drum studio, and further into the building to a room, she uses to create in. Her excitement was palpable as we walked into undeveloped spaces, rooms she visualized as a future studio, meditation room, and learning center for those exploring themselves through art.

One of Ted’s drum kits in the music studio

Natalie’s connection to nature is strongly present not only in her work but in the gardens and animals who share her home. She grew up in the Catskills hiking and loving the outdoors, a value that exudes from every corner of her life now. It was fun to watch her move through this old building she has re-imagined, much like she has re-imagined her life from school teacher to community builder and artist.

“I taught Art for 30 years in schools,” she reflected. Now released into her creativity through retirement, Natalie is expanding not only her own love of nature through art but encouraging other artists as well. She is a major collaborator and supporter of Arts Around Greenville, a community partnership of artists who offered their first – but not last – artist tour through the local library and a private studio. Twenty-two artists participated, and each studio reported an average of 30 unique visitors during an exceptionally hot weekend in July. To avoid the weather, the group will host their next Art Around Greenville in May 2023.

Laura and Natalie at the studio

You can check out Natalie’s work in Athen’s Cultural Center, at the Art Society of Kingston, and also in the Catskill’s Create Member’s Show. If you want to check her out during your lunch break in Albany, check out her pieces at the Annual Members’ Show at Albany Center Gallery.

If you feel inspired by her works, you can sign up at her website boburkastudios.com for an upcoming class. She’s making soaps for the holidays at her studio and teaching window painting at Athens Cultural Center. 

At the art studio

When we left, I hugged Natalie again, this time remembering the flowers. Surrounded by her dogs, cats, and historic house, she felt so intrinsically connected to her life and the landscape that surrounded her. We parted with promises not to stay apart too long this time, and she offered again for me to take a class with her. “You don’t know what you’re asking for – I’m a terrible artist,” I confessed.

“I love a good challenge!” Natalie laughed, glowing with the energy of the world’s challenges around her.

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