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Paintings, Pourings and Pottery - a journey of love, war and womanhood 




Born in Kosovo and raised during the turmoil of wartime in the 1990’s, Saranda Kalaveshi began exhibiting her artistic talents as early as three-years-old; she would consistently draw animals and replicate cartoon scenes and, as her mother likes to recall, Saranda would “draw with her finger in the air” when she slept. Saranda’s mother began collecting her paintings, and many of them were put on display during a solo exhibition at Saranda’s school for her tenth birthday. Her work ethic and talent was recognized and celebrated on numerous occasions, including several art competitions which had Saranda winning 1st place three years in a row in her town—she was also awarded 3rd place countrywide for her paintings. As a child, Saranda began investing in her musical talent as well, including attending music schools and becoming a classically trained pianist; however, she continued to regularly showcase her artwork through various exhibitions back home.

In 2010, Saranda had the opportunity to move to the United States to study acting, a feat which she has achieved on several fronts. She graduated from the University of New Mexico with a Bachelor’s in Theatre and went on to attain her Masters of Fine Arts in Acting from the University of Florida, all the while participating in a variety of theatre performances, musicals, and even in several film productions in New Mexico as well as Los Angeles. While her love of the stage certainly became prominent over the past decade, Saranda never ceased painting and exhibiting her work when possible. 

Saranda is a predominantly self-taught artist. When possible, she enjoys spending her spare-time exploring galleries and museums, reading and studying documentaries on the great artists of the past. She also passionately researches different styles and techniques of painting, learning all that she can before she dives into a new experiment of her own making. Saranda’s goal always has been, and remains, to inspire, educate, and entertain others through the diverse interactions between the performing and visual arts, and to this end she remains steadfast in her pursuits of artistic knowledge and revelation.

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Njomza Kalaveshi was born in 1987 in the beautiful city of Gjakova, Kosovo. As a child, Njomza showed great interest in the arts; she met her first art mentor at the age of five when she moved with her mother and sister to Albania. Njomza began primary school in Albania, only to complete it back in Kosovo in 2000. In high school she pursued art and design studies, and from there she continued her studies in acting and theater. Njomza has a Bachelor's in Acting from the University of Prishtina, Kosovo. In 2008, Njomza was employed by the theater in Gjilan, Kosovo, where she continued to act until 2019, a year which was a crucial year for her life. She and her four-year-old daughter migrated to the United States to join her mother, Drita, and sister, Saranda. Njomza settled in New Mexico; drawing inspiration from her mother and sister, she returned to her love for painting. Njomza’s art consists of historical characters and ethnic costumes, such as Albanian, created with varying types of media including acrylic, beads, glitter, golden leaves, and threads, to name a few. 


The end result of her pieces is often in the form of a portrait, wherein the focus is not necessarily on the person or face, but on the shiny, heavily textured costume that they’re wearing, often also coated with epoxy resin. Njomza prides herself in paying great attention to detail in her work, a process which can take months to be fully realized.

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Drita was born in Kosovo in 1965 and raised during the heavy political turmoil that took place in former Yugoslavia. She showed great potential in art in middle and high school, took Albanian folk dance classes, and acted in local plays; however, she decided to pursue disability studies, with a specialty in children with speech impairment. With the political turmoil reaching its peak in the 90s just prior to the collapse of Yugoslavia, Drita had no opportunity to develop her artistic career and instead turned to business, opening a shoe company and restaurant which became the main source of income for her family (by this time, she had her two daughters, Njomza and Saranda).


After Kosovo was liberated from Serbia in 1999, Drita decided to join the police force of the newborn State and eventually wound up in Iraq working for an American company that served the U.S. Army. In 2012, while her daughter Saranda was studying at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, Drita decided to pay her a visit; however, she quickly found a job on campus and decided to call Albuquerque home. She worked for the University Libraries at UNM for close to a decade before relocating to Connecticut.


Drita’s return to art could be considered an accident, as she didn’t think she still had it in her; throughout her life, she’d worked other jobs to survive. Aside from the aforementioned shoe company and restaurant, she also owned and operated a construction company and a cosmetics store back in Europe; art had only been able to be a part of her through her daughters. However, as a UNM employee, she decided to enroll in a pottery class, and her new chapter began. She described the feeling of working with clay as akin to being born again - she rediscovered that she’d carried the talent of creating all along, but life had given her no opportunity to explore it. Each day in the pottery studio felt different, exciting, and new. Drita fell in love with creating pottery and continued to take classes, exploring different types of art on the side, such as print making and painting. She graduated from UNM with a Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts and Integrative Studies.


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