Mara Viksnins has been an artist forever; realizing it just took a while.
When growing up in New York City, Viksnins always had a pen, ink, and paper on which to draw. Her dad enjoyed painting copies of Monet and Renoir's work.
It only came naturally that Viksnins would pick up her dad's habits and inclinations.
"It was always there as I was always sketching during class in school and drawing faces," she said.
Viksnins still leans toward drawing faces, even if her initial intention is to create an abstract work, and the face seems to always be that of a woman.
"Sometimes I start with a total abstract, but toward the end I will think you know, this needs a face and I put in a woman," she says, as if even she is baffled by the compulsion.
"I'm kind of obsessed with it," she says. "I put icons, secret messages and suggestions in my paintings — I guess as my way of communicating. Some people don't see them and some do."
But why always a woman?
"I love nature — Mother Nature," she says. "Mother, or woman is where life comes from."
Viksnins has traveled extensively and the sights she has seen in Peru and the rugged terrain of Alaska's frozen tundra have also offered inspiration.
As an intuitive painter who is easily inspired, Viksnins is not limited in the inspiration arena. She also finds it through reading, songs that she hears, the warmth of the sun, Greek and Roman mythology, and poetry, particularly that of Robert Frost.
"I love texture and anything out of the ordinary and somewhat abstract," she said.
All this inspiration finds its way onto paper through pen and ink, or canvas through acrylic collages using mixed media.
Viksnins varies her style; sometimes the application is thin and sometimes it is applied thickly.
Viksnins' imagination and variety of approach won her the award of Best in Show from the Cultural Arts Alliance's A+ Art committee at their summer 2012 fine art exhibit for her work "Tickling the Ivories."
"Tickling the Ivories is typical of Mara's symbolic style, which is vibrating with color and rhythm," said A+ Art Committee Co-Chair Robin Wiesneth.
Thanks to that recognition, the committee invited Viksnins back for a one-woman show, which opened June 21 at the South Walton campus of Northwest Florida State College.
This one-woman show consists of 35 of Viksnins' paintings.
Her work is represented at two galleries in Pensacola, but this is her first one-woman show.
Viksnins moved to Destin seven years ago.
With an art degree from the University of West Florida, Viksnins has studied with prominent artists nationwide. She belongs to Blue Morning Gallery and Quayside Art Gallery in Pensacola and recently received Best of Show at Artel Gallery in Pensacola for her work "Family Dynamics," a collage encased in a shadow box. Viksnins is also president of the Pensacola Branch of the National League of American Pen Women, an organization of professional female artists, composers, and writers, and was honored at the 2012 NLAPW Biennial Art Show in Washington, D.C.
Her one-woman show at NWFSC runs through Aug. 23. The campus is located at 109 Greenway Trail off U.S. Highway 331 South. The exhibit may be viewed during the campus's normal business hours.
Viksnins also paints commissioned works, including portraits of children and animals.
To view more of her work, visit www.maraviksnins.com.