Tanya Momi has run Spoil Me Salon for over two decades. After immigrating to the United States from Chandigarh, India, nearly 25 years ago, she has finally returned to her roots: painting. Today, this beautician-turned-artist has completed nearly 200 unique paintings.
“As a young girl I was passionate about art,” says Momi. “I sat in libraries and art galleries, going through books and books about artists and their lives.”
Momi earned her bachelors degree in art when she was still in India, and even won a number of local art contests at Government College for Women. After moving to the United States, however, Momi got divorced and was forced to stop painting in order to run her salon and raise her two children.
When she couldn’t paint, Momi expressed her artistic side through her clients’ make up, hair, and nails. “My clients’ nails were my canvases,” she says. “Instead of water colors, I was using enamel.”
Two years ago, with the encouragement of her family and clients, Momi picked up the paintbrush once again. “I can’t stop painting,” she says. “I would paint four paintings a day, full-time if I could.”
Momi finds painting to be therapeutic. Much of her artwork depicts the hardships she has faced in life, including witnessing war in her childhood: “All that pain is [still] coming out on my canvas. All the emotions: pain, sadness, anger.”
In an effort to transcend her troubled past, Momi paints constructive and encouraging messages about getting past divorce and domestic abuse. “Don’t complain,” she says. “Make something out of it.”
Momi is particularly concerned with the divorce rate in America, and has completed one painting depicting the social isolation she felt after being labeled a divorcée. “It happens often,” she says, “but people don’t want to talk about it.”
Her salon is “old fashioned”; many of her clients share their lives with her and look to her for advice. “I have helped battered women on my own,” she says proudly. “I give moral support.”
Momi feels that Americans tend to hide their personal problems, whether depression or adultery. Two of her paintings are yard-long canvases she calls “Everytown and Country Therapy Sessions,” which look like malls, but with stores for social issues like “domestic abuse” and “missing children,” as well as internal struggles like “ego” and “stress.” She wants these paintings to demonstrate that Americans should be more open about their problems, and that Indian Americans, despite their success, are “growing on the outside, but not on the inside.”
Another painting is a collage of cut up credit cards, entitled “Life Without Debt is Priceless.” “There is a lot of peer-pressure on youth,” Momi says. “They are pressured into wanting everything.”
Momi’s art takes many forms; she has done collages, social realism, cubism, and even sculpture. “I don’t have any artists I relate to,” she says. “My life is my inspiration.”
Much of Momi’s art is also inspired by the Sikh faith and scriptures. She strives to create symbols for Sikhism, by taking “writing from a holy book and [putting] it on canvas ,” rather than using images of the gurus, because, she believes, “the book is the eleventh guru.”
Momi’s goal is to “display [her paintings] all over the world” and she is taking the first steps. Her painting, “Golden Age,” is currently on display at the Packard Art Studio’s 25th Anniversary exhibit at the Los Altos, Calif., library.