In the middle of a cafe on a late Saturday morning, Aria Luna is plopped on a white cushioned chair, doodling. She has a lavender-colored meringue cookie in one hand, green marker in the other. Her hazel eyes are fixated on her notebook, and her wispy brown curls gravitate toward the paper.
Aria, an 8-year-old Los Altos resident, has a penchant for art. But she is a package deal, also a lover of sweets, video games, math and making sense of the world and its flaws.
“I started scribbling at 6 months old,” she said. “I really started drawing around 2 years old. My dad just took my hand, and he started making me draw. (The first thing I drew was) a snail.”
Creative thinking runs in her genes. Before Aria had the dexterity to hold a pencil, she would watch her father draw. Aria’s maternal grandmother is a graphic designer. Her great-grandmother and great-great grandmother were also involved in creative endeavors.
Aria’s parents are like gardeners nurturing a young plant: not overwatering, ensuring sunlight and room for growth, providing essential nutrients.
“She started doodling like any child, but it didn’t hit me until she was 3,” said Aria’s mom, Birgitte Rasine, of her daughter’s talent. “When (the art) has an actual style and makes you feel, there’s something going on.”
Regardless, Rasine doesn’t believe in using words like “prodigy” or “child genius,” because they could prevent her daughter from having an authentic childhood experience.
“She’s an artist, and she’s growing, and she’s evolving,” Rasine said. “We don’t want to push her in directions she doesn’t want to go. For me, it’s important that she understands the role that her talent can play in the world.”
Aria’s latest exhibition, “Fusion Tide,” is dedicated to raising awareness of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The art is on display through January at Google Inc.’s headquarters in Mountain View (not open to the public) and moves to the consulate of Colombia in San Francisco this summer.
“There’s a monster, Bogo Mogo,” Aria said in explaining “Fusion Tide.” “He eats plastic and grows bigger. He’s trying to infiltrate the ocean and the whole world. There are these (mythical protectors) of the sea, and they’re trying to stop him. They can’t hold him back for so long, and people have to help.”
The interactive exhibition comprises seven paintings that illustrate the battle between Bogo Mogo and the ocean protectors. Ultimately, the audience embarks on a quest to find five words hidden in five paintings to unlock a powerful message to defeat Bogo Mogo.
Vampire teeth, inkjet cartridge caps, Babybel cheese wrappers and old Pirate’s Booty bags come together to form the appearance of the plastic monster.
Walking the walk
A few months after the exhibition reception, Aria and Rasine literally walked the walk by attending the Rise for Climate March in San Francisco. A week later, the mother-daughter duo participated in International Coastal Cleanup Day.
Aria has completed one other exhibition, “Dragon Storm,” featured at Palo Alto’s Cubberley Community Center in December 2017. It drew attention to the 2017 California wildfires and captured her “dragon phase” – inspired by the “How to Train Your Dragon” books – of her art adventure so far. She has journeyed through dinosaur, gumdrop and Picasso phases as well.
Her next exhibition, scheduled for May in Menlo Park, plans to emphasize Amazon Rainforest conservation.
Aria begins working her magic – doodling, envisioning exhibitions like “Fusion Tide” and “Dragon Storm” and painting – during dinnertime. Her dinner occupies a portion of her table setting, her art the rest.
The sun sets and she continues to create. She is an 8-year-old night owl. An 11 p.m. bedtime is not too late, and a 9 a.m. interview is a tad too early.
However, attending school on weekday mornings is an inescapable reality, and she seems to love the collaborative and project-based atmosphere of Ventana School in Los Altos. Aria said her favorite subject is math, as she is enticed by its inherent patterns. In first grade, Aria felt compelled to understand imaginary and negative numbers.
Her favorite part of third grade is her friends, Aria said. She frequently writes them how-to manuals for drawing.
“Sometimes I do little paper thingies, like how to draw a fox,” she said.
In bullet points, she will write directions for completing the first step, drawing a heart. She’ll alternate between writing instructions and depicting the steps until the fox on paper is what she imagines in her mind.
For more information on Aria and her work, visit arialuna.com.