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 on 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 for 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.
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 Bachelors’ Degree 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 such as 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, coated with a layer of epoxy resin. Njomza prides herself in paying great attention to detail in her work, a process which can take months to be fully realized.
Drita was born in Kosovo in 1965 and raised during heavy political turmoil that took place in what is now Ex-Yugoslavia. Drita showed great potential in art in middle and high school, took Albanian folk dance classes and even 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 right before the collapse of Yugoslavia, Drita had no opportunity to develop her career which she had studied for, so she turned to business. She opened a shoe company which became the main source of income for her family (by this time, she had her two daughters, Njomza and Saranda).
After the war in 1999 when Kosovo was freed from Serbia, Drita decided to join the police force of the newborn state of Kosovo, eventually ending up in Iraq working for an American company that served the U.S. Army for a number of years. 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 now works at the University Libraries at UNM.
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, she’d opened a restaurant, a construction company and a cosmetics store (all back home); art had been a part of her only through her daughters. However, as a UNM employee she decided to enroll in a pottery class, and that’s when her new chapter began. She describes the feeling of working with clay like being born again. She began discovering that she’d carried the talent of creating all along, but life had given her no opportunity to explore it. Every day in the pottery studio felt different, exciting, 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 degree in Liberal Arts and Integrative Studies.
At present, Drita resides in Rio Rancho and creates pottery and paintings in the comfort of her own home. She draws inspiration from her surroundings—her two daughters, her five-year-old niece and the natural beauty of New Mexico.