WAITSBURG — Kimi Bruzas’ life and art has changed a lot in recent years.

She spent many stressful years as a clerk for Pierce County courts in Tacoma. Bruzas, 55, said she thought in colors, but could not find much time in her life to explore her artistic side. 

“I have always been an artist in my head, even when I worked at the courthouse for 22 years,” Bruzas said. “I wanted to be creating and painting. I just didn’t have the time to do it.”

The death of husband Bill marked a turning point in her life. A brain aneurysm took his life suddenly in September 2015. 

Bruzas said she sold much of her belongings and moved to Waitsburg to be close to her parents. The move gave her space to grieve and let the colors in her head flow.

A series of Bruzas’ work will be featured in ArtWalla’s First Friday Pop Up Show from 4:30-8 p.m. on Friday at 3 W. Poplar St. It will be the first time her work has been featured in a show. Some of her pieces will also be on display at Goose Ridge Winery Tasting Room, 9 N. Second Ave., in July and August.

Bruzas said she started painting watercolors a few years ago. Her first few pieces were portraits of Bill. 

“When Bill passed away, that changed my perspective on life,” Bruzas said.

As she progressed, her work took on more lighthearted themes and brighter colors.

Hanging on the walls in her living room is a watercolor of a rooster wearing high heels, a colorful portrait of ancient Egyptian queen Nefertiti and a depiction of the Roman love goddess Venus in her underwear holding up a smartphone as if taking a picture of herself in a mirror.

“When I first started doing it, it was trying to get through the grieving process, just to paint to escape it,” Bruzas said. “Now I do it because I just love it.”

Bruzas, also a member of the Blue Mountain Arts Guild and Northwest Collage Society, has settled into her new community since she moved east. 

She flips furniture, art and antiques with her sister at the Country Store in Walla Walla, serves lunch at the Walla Walla Senior Citizens Center on Tuesdays, sells lawn mowers at Pioneer West in Dayton and has still managed to post more than 50 works of art on her Facebook page in the past two years.

In the past six months, Bruzas has started experimenting with collage art. She has a big cabinet full of books and magazines of no particular genre. She cuts all sorts of shapes, words, logos and more from them as an idea for a piece swirls in her head. 

“That’s what I love,” Bruzas said. “It’s the hunt for the right shape and the right color.”

One of her favorite pieces, titled “L.A. Woman” after the Doors song, shows a woman with piercing green eyes and fire red lips peeking over her sunglasses, golden hair spilling from her bonnet. Cut from scraps of a Los Angeles map, pieces this complex can take a couple dozen hours, she said. 

Her other collages have a lot more going on. From a distance, one piece shows a pony standing in front of a fence. Viewing it from up close, it becomes apparent the pony is made of cut outs of flowers. A little closer, and the faces looking through the cracks in the fence come into view, one of them being Jesus. 

Bruzas said she often uses religious imagery to show how Christianity has recently become a bigger part of her life.

“I try to put signs of Christ in my pieces when I can,” Bruzas said. “You’ll see crosses, you’ll see pictures of Jesus if you look closely.”

Bruzas said she plans to use depth and layering in a similar way on a Guns N’ Roses-inspired piece she is working on currently. 

She said she plans to make it more abstract than her other works, drawing attention to shapes and colors from a distance and the literal guns and roses up close. Bruzas said she was unsure of what to do with the gun magazines her dad gave her, but a Guns N’ Roses song played on the radio on the way home and the idea stayed with her.

“Certain lyrics stick in my head,” she said. “Until I get it out through collage, it seems like it’s stuck in there.”

Bruzas said she wanted to work on incorporating watercolor with collage in the future. She expects it to be a challenge.

“They’re very different mediums,” Bruzas said. “I don’t know how I’m going to do it but I have it in my head.”

Forrest Holt can be reached at forrestholt@wwub.com or 526-8326.

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