Chaila Amundson had six weeks of school left before she would have completed her degree in aesthetics from Ridgewater College. Then life was put on hold by COVID-19.

Being quarantined, Amundson, a 2017 graduate of Redwood Valley High School, had plenty of time on her hands, and so she spent time doing something that has been an important part of her life – painting.

Naturally she gravitated to something that has consistently inspired her – Marilyn Monroe.

Having finished her painting, Amundson posted her work on social media, and people took notice. She started getting order after order for paintings, which for the local artist was very exciting.

From April through mid-July, Amundson was able to complete 12 paintings –nine of which were commissioned.

Now the public will have the chance to see some of Amundson’s art work up close, as she is being featured at the Cultural Centre in Bird Island this month. 

The exhibit entitled, “This is How I See It,” will be available for the public now through Sept. 24. An open house is being held at the Cultural Centre Sept. 12 from 12-3 p.m.

“Art has always been a big part of my life. Since I was young, I’ve always loved drawing and crafting/creating things. Everyone in my family is pretty artistic in some way, so I grew up around it,” Amundson explained, adding art is an important part of everyone’s life. “Without it, there would be no way to express yourself. The way your home is decorated and furnished, the clothes you wear, the music you listen to, the landscape outside are all examples of art in our everyday life.

"There would be no diversity and life would be boring. Everything is art. Creating art is important to me, because I love the impact. When I give someone their painting and they have an emotional reaction to it, it makes the late nights so worth it to me.”

After graduating from high school in 2017, Amundson of Redwood Falls worked three jobs to save up money. She attended a makeup school in the cities in May 2018.

“After I finished that one month program, I continued with two of the jobs, coached volleyball one year and also did makeup jobs whenever I was asked to continue saving money,” Amundson added. “Occasionally I would have some people ask me to paint a portrait for them and that brought in a little money too, but I had no idea how to get people to buy them. So I just did it as I was asked and posted it on social media to share it with my friends and family.”

Amundson indicated she typically sticks to black and white oil paints on canvas, but she has also dabbled a tiny bit in other media like glitter and resin (she has one piece in this media that will be displayed at the Cultural Centre), watercolor and wood burning.

“Anyone who knows me knows that Marilyn Monroe is kind of my muse. I love painting her because she is such a strong, beautiful, iconic woman. Everyone knows who she is and that’s inspiring to me. For the most part, I do black and white portraits of people, but I have recently branched out to doing pet portraits, as well as using color instead of just black and white,” she added.

Since April, pretty much all Amundson has been doing is painting. Each one takes her in the area of 15-70 hours, depending on how big it is and how many people are in it.

“Usually I work tirelessly to get it done, meaning I paint for 15 hours a day until it’s finished,” she added.

Amundson’s daily schedule looks something like this:

• 1 p.m.-5 a.m. – paint

• 5:30 a.m.-12 p.m. – sleep

“I literally wake up and paint until I go to bed most of the time,” she added.

Amundson actually heard about the Cultural Centre back in January at the Tatanka Arts Juried Art Show in Redwood Falls. Her best friend from the Olivia/Bird Island area (who is also an artist) had an exhibit there in February and gave her Rosemary Glesener’s contact information. (Glesener is one of the founders of the Cultural Centre.)

“I sent her an e-mail with some photos of my work and she got back to me right away, saying that she would love to have me display my work,” explained Amundson.

Amundson met with Glesener at the beginning of March, and she showed her around the Cultural Centre and told her about the exhibit and how it would work.

“She told me that this would be a great opportunity to help get my name out there because they have connections in the art industry. It was kind of a no-brainer,” Amundson added.

Amundson will be displaying all of the paintings she has done for herself during the past few years.

This is Amundson’s first real art exhibit, but she has entered two juried art shows where a couple of her pieces were displayed for a month both times.

Last October there was an art show in Springfield where she won second place with a painting of her good friend’s baby.

In January she entered the same two paintings in the Tatanka Arts juried art show.

Amundson’s main goal right now is to continue to grow as an artist, to keep working on commissions and to get her name out there more.

“I would love to be able to do art full-time and support myself with that. It has always been my dream to travel the world, so it would be cool to be able to travel constantly and do art from wherever I happen to be in the world,” she added.

The public can stay updated on Amundson’s art journey by following her on social media. Her Instagram and Facebook are both @ArtsyChaila.

Learn more about the Cultural Centre online at birdislandculture.com.