The fifth in a series of artisan profiles by contributing writer Emerald Atkins.
Don’t throw away that house paint! It can be used for art.
Cassandra Tondro, an artist living in Santa Monica, CA, knows that secret, and has been using it since 2007 to create vibrant abstract paintings. Her unique medium comes from many sources. Sometimes the acrylic latex paint is literally repurposed house paint, gleaned either from the mistint shelves of hardware stores or from the local household hazardous waste center. She also works directly with her clients by incorporating leftover paint from their architectural site to create truly custom art.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that between 35 to 103 million gallons of post-consumer architectural paint are disposed of in the United States each year. By rescuing paint before it reaches landfills, Cassandra helps to reduce waste. Yet it wasn’t until she’d been working with the medium for many years, she said, that she realized how the material was in alignment with her personal values. Since the 1960s her evolving interests have included organic and natural foods, voluntary lifestyle simplicity, alternative healing, and a deep concern about the changing environment — and sustainable artwork is a natural extension of those interests. As an expression of that, her paintings are created on custom-made canvases made from American poplar hardwood and cotton canvas woven in U.S. mills. Both materials are readily renewable.
When her clients wish, the art is created with low- or no-VOC paint.
Cassandra works with interior designers, architects, art consultants, and individual collectors to produce paintings tailored for their homes, offices, and commercial properties. Her work is part of public collections in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Hampshire. Custom pieces grace the walls of hospitals and organizations such as the Oakwood Family Resource Center in Los Angeles. Galleries widespread as the Bergamot Café Gallery in Santa Monica, CA, and the LoPressionism Gallery in Melbourne, FL, have featured her art.
Currently her work is being displayed at the LACMA Art Rental and Sales Gallery in Los Angeles, CA; at the OBJCT Gallery in Claremont, CA; and the Pierre Paul Art Gallery in Ann Arbor, MI.
It hasn’t always been this way. Cassandra labored as a computer programmer for eighteen years before following her heart and opening WildFiber, a store and studio in Santa Monica, CA, which offered classes in fiber arts. She owned the store for seven years, then sold the business to one of her teachers and finally made the leap into making her living from sales of her art. 2011 marks her eleventh year as a full-time painter.
Along the way she was influenced by many artists – Georgia O’Keefe, Judy Chicago, Australian textilist India Flint, and California abstract painter Ed Moses, among others, including her mother, an abstract sculptor who created in wood and marble. Cassandra considers herself a process painter, meaning that she’s more interested in the process of painting than in obtaining a particular end result. Initially she painted with acrylics, which gave her work an ethereal look, but now enjoys how the acrylic latex medium allows for stronger contrast and more distinct design.
“I love this work and the discipline that it requires,” she said. “It stretches me in unexpected ways and demands that I learn many new skills… I enjoy the feeling that I’m continuing to grow, evolve, and perfect my art.”
Ms. Tondro’s work can be seen at her website. She may also be contacted by phone at 310-452-2964.