This spring, as it became clear that the coronavirus was taking hold around the globe, Ludi Leiva, a self-taught artist and multimedia storyteller, was living in Berlin. "It didn't feel good to be thousands of miles away from my family and community during a time like this, when everything is so uncertain," she says. So she returned to the US on March 17th — "right," she says, "as things were getting wild." Since then, she's called various places home — Portland, Los Angeles, and, since just a month ago, a sleepy little neighborhood in the Pacific Northwest where she now lives.
In Leiva's new home, there are wetlands all around, and the chorus of frogs and crickets and birds that go with them. The rugged Oregon coast is a short 7-minute drive away. Says Leiva, "From the second I got here, it has been the most peaceful place ever."
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So while her time in Berlin was left interrupted, and she plans to return to Europe soon, this iteration of home is a respite from the stress of the pandemic. "I'm so grateful to be where I am, while this year has unfolded as it has," she says.
Hunker: Where is that space, or spot, in your home that is uniquely your own … where you feel your most you?
Ludi Leiva: It's my little painting and plant nook. No matter where I've been this year, I replicate something similar. This version is an upgrade. It's a little corner with a bunch of plants overlooking the wetlands. You can crack the window and hear the animals and birds. It's also right next to the fireplace.
Hunker: And what do you do there?
LL: My painting easel is set up there.
Hunker: Why does this particular space have meaning for you?
LL: That's my nook to decompress and connect with nature and my painting practice. The majority of my work is digital painting and illustration. This is my chance to carve out more time for an analog practice. This is the space for that.
Hunker: What is something you like to do in that space that might surprise people?
LL: Sometimes when I talk about painting I get surprised reactions. I don't identify as a painter. Maybe it's a bit of imposter syndrome — I'm self-taught. When I've shared my work, people always say, Oh, I didn't know you painted.
You know, with social media, Instagram, my digital art practice ... it's a lot of time spent in front of screens for one reason or another. I think right now we cling to those things for a sense of connection with other people. But there's something to be said about getting away from the screen and slowing down. In my case, it's listening to nature, and slowly chipping away at a painting. It's such a different workflow and process. It's been meditative for me.
Hunker: What do you like to surround yourself with in this space? And why is it important?
LL: The light. There's a big window, which is south-facing, and it gets really beautiful afternoon and evening light. It's magical. Being in the Pacific Northwest, it's not a typically sunny place. Right now it's cloudy. So it's all the more magical when golden hour light comes in. It takes my breath away.
Anything that interrupts our monotony or our patterns is really important. As artists, you need those gaps, those moments that make you stop and go, something is different, let me bask in this moment. The moments for me are sunshine and I'm very drawn to that corner.
Hunker: What are three things in your home that hold the most value to you?
LL: My books. I gave away all my books when I went to Europe. And since I came back I've been recreating my library and reading a lot.
My altar, with my crystals and special objects. I bring my altar with me everywhere I go, in a bag that I tote around the world. It's the first thing I set up.
And the third thing is my journal. I've gotten into my morning pages in the last three or four years. I write my dreams down and clear my mind before I start the day.
Hunker: Finish this sentence, "Home is where …"
LL: I can allow myself to unfold just as I am, without judgment.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
*Being Home *is a series that focuses on spaces in people's homes that genuinely reflect who they are — a dedicated spot where they go to recharge or to "tune in" — where they feel their most creative, safe, joyful, or true. Where they settle into the act of "be-ing."