Blaire Zika never sought to make a big splash in the Reno art scene. Her work wasn’t even intended for an audience. It was more of a personal expression she used to illustrate a painful time in her life.
She’s still in the process of getting comfortable with even calling herself an artist. “It’s always just been, like, what I do for my grief,” Zika said.
About a year and a half ago, she lost her husband to suicide. Since the tragedy, especially during the first few months after his death, she’s poured herself into art, painting canvas after canvas and spending hours writing poems. Although she had a close group of loved ones who rallied around her, making art was sometimes the only way she could effectively grieve. The outlet released some of the hurt, and it came out naturally.
“I could just sit for 11 hours and work on something, and that entire time an emotion would come up, I’d think about it, process it,” Zika said. “I had that freedom to just let my brain go where it needed to go. I didn’t try to control it or manipulate it or put it into a box. I just let it be. What I was feeling was what I was feeling.”
A passionate student of psychology, Zika knew the best way for her to get through this terrible period in her life was to feel each moment as best she could. She allowed herself the time and space to process her new reality, savor every memory, and cry buckets of tears. She would listen to voice memos her late husband had left on her phone. She’d watch old family videos and laugh. With each step, she was always creating something. Sometimes, she felt like she’d be lost forever in bleak moments. During those times, making her artwork helped her see the beauty in grief.
“I learned it will pass,” she said. “There’s all these emotions that a human body can go through—mind, body, spirit—and you can still come out alive and thriving.”
Zika has learned to let go of the anxiety of what others might think of her or her circumstances and says that has freed her from judging herself. She took her first timid steps into the world of Reno art by hanging her intimate poetry and canvases at a local boutique earlier this year. The show sold out. Guests who attended also went through three boxes of tissues.
Not all of Zika’s work is about painful things. She now works on commissioned paintings of various subjects, writes about lighter topics and loves to crochet. She doesn’t want to be in a constant state of darkness to produce art.
“Whatever the trauma is, it becomes this bigger being or monster when it’s kept inside. Getting it out—and that’s the creative outlet with the art—and actually releasing it into something else is super, super cleansing,” she said.
Zika hopes others can feel that they don’t have to grieve in hiding. She believes bringing pain into the light can facilitate healing and empowerment. The dark parts of life haven’t taken Zika out of the game. She now sees them as part of the game. And she’s here to play.