Mankato artist Raya Watts goes from Miami to 410 Gallery

The 410 Gallery is hosting another local artist’s paintings this month, with a collection called “Tweety and The Toque” by artist Raya Watts. Watts hopped off the plane at Minneapolis-Saint Paul (MSP) with a dream and her yellow tartan plaid overcoat two years ago. 

Contrasted to Miley Cyrus’s lyrics, however, Watts moved to Mankato for a relationship. But when the relationship began to flounder, and Cyrus’s melodic questions of “Am I gonna fit in?” began to hit too close to home, Watts decided to pick up the paintbrush and paint her feelings onto a canvas.

Dark times require bright colors; coping is what got Watts into creating art.

“I had really struggling teenage years… I really wanted to just transmute my feelings into something beautiful. It’s also good for manifesting positive emotions,” Watts said. 

The currently running 410 Gallery showing is inspired by the passing of Watts’ mother. According to Watts, she used the exhibition and the paintings inside them as a way to grow closer to her.

“My mother passed away in 2016, and she really liked Tweety. I didn’t really know her too well so that’s kind of our connection, Tweety Bird,” Watts said. 

Many of Watts’ other works, aside from her inner workings, are about femininity and embracing its divinity, something that she thinks is looked down upon by the general public.

“[My art is] whatever I’m feeling. I also have pretty vivid dreams that I get lots of inspiration from. I really like the divine feminine, sexual expression and such, things that are kind of ‘frowned upon’ in society,” Watts said.

While her paintings are inspired by her own thoughts, she leaves the paintings up to the interpretation of each respective viewer. To her, the painting has a different meaning and takeaway for anyone that lays their eyes upon it.

“Every one has a different message. They’re kind of all over the place. It’s not one cohesive statement; they’re each kind of unique. It’s more interpretive, I’d say,” Watts said.

This is Watts’ first official art exhibition. She’s had miniature showcases here and there around town, but for her, the 410 Gallery choosing to exhibit her paintings makes her hopeful for her future as an artist.

“I was at ARTrageous Mankato, and I did a little popup thing there. [This is] my first time having an exhibition there at the 410. And next month, November, it’ll be at the Coffee Hag, so that’s exciting,” Watts said.

Watts plans on staying in Mankato for a bit because she’s really found her place, her people and her passion.

“I’ve been here two years since, and I’ve found my crew, my people. I really would [love to expand.] I really would love to paint a mural eventually. I’m happy to be here in Mankato, I feel like the community is really good for art.”

The show is open for viewing until Oct. 22. 

Header Photo: ​​Watts, originally a Florida native, moved to Mankato two years ago, and much prefers the art scene in Minnesota instead. (Joey Erickson/The Reporter)

Write to Joey Erickson at joseph.erickson.2@mnsu.edu

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