Inspired by the Abstract Expressionists in America, Yarza worked her way to the Art Students League in New York, where she was immediately offered a scholarship. She showed in galleries and felt inspired by the open, positive atmosphere in New York, compared with France, where she says the process was all about criticism, about "breaking you down." But it soon became impossible to afford the city, so she came to L.A.
In two years, Yarza has exhibited in several low-key venues. And while it is difficult to survive and find space to paint, she still elicits a sense of freedom and space within her work. To make money, Yarza, whose expenses hover around $1,600 a month, teaches tango, gives French lessons, sings at Cafe Marly in L.A. and does several other odd jobs, including computer illustration and working as a hotel receptionist. Still, she believes it would be even harder in Europe.
She has many times put off marriage and family. She loves children but is fierce about her career as a painter. And what with moving all over the world and working strange hours, it's been hard to meet the right person. To get the artist's visa most visiting artists covet, she will have to have gallery shows, recognition by a U.S. institution, which will give her three to five years here. Then she can apply for a green card. Until this happens, Yarza is not comfortable leaving the country for fear she will not be allowed back in, so her mother visits her here once a year or so.
Networking may be key to Yarza's success. The most distinguished artists in New York spend a lot of time at parties, says Peter Gould, one of three directors of the venerable, 30-year-old LA Louver Gallery in Venice. "And I think the artists that network in this way gain a lot by doing it." Gould says many new artists come to him through other artists the gallery has represented. "We keep a mindful eye on artists graduating, visiting their studios and watching the progress of their work; developing a dialogue," he says.
But other factors play into the decision to pick up a new artist as well: The gallery has to believe in an artist's longevity, their stick-to-it-iveness.
Finding their own voice
BY the time Kamille and Kelly Rudisill were 5 and 7, respectively, their talent was unmistakable. In 1994 (at 8 and 10), their parents, Robin and Peter, enrolled them in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music's five-year program. Two years later, they were earning first-place and grand-champion trophies in state competitions. They attended the San Francisco School of the Arts as theater majors and then USC's Thornton School of Music. While in college, they played several acoustic gigs (sometimes with Dad playing percussion) at such L.A. venues as Temple Bar, Genghis Cohen, the Mint and the Viper Room. In 2001, they started Karmina, named for their little sister, Petra Karmina.
The girls began courting such labels as Universal / Motown Records in their mid- to late teens. "It's a mean, small world," they agree.
"At first, we'd get all dressed up in fishnet stockings and heels and J.Lo sunglasses to go to these meetings," says Kelly. "[Then] we decided to hang back a little and not try so hard to get signed until we knew exactly what we wanted." In the meantime, they have developed a fan base and created a website.
Kelly, 21, and Kamille, 19, who live with their family in Venice, love to perform, the bigger the audience the better. But they agree that it no longer feels so important to sign a contract with a big label. As time passes, they have developed a keener sense of who they are as composers and performers (no more fishnet stockings). They talk about producing themselves. "The music business is more about business," says Kamille. "It used to be only the major labels. Now there's more indie labels and more artists are inspired, like Joni Mitchell or Ani DiFranco, to say [no] to big studios. Who wants to be stuck being marketed as the next Hilary Duff?"
As for timelines, Kelly would like to have a child in her 20s. Kamille says let's work as hard as we can now for five or 10 years and then settle down to have families. For right now, like Yarza, Kelly and Kamille are determined to succeed. Their parents have taken on managing Karmina full time.
Success is an ongoing struggle as they define who they are and what their sound is. Even their father sometimes tries to make the songs more appealing to the public, which makes Kamille bristle. The older they get, it seems, the stronger their sense of their own talents becomes. "No offense," says Kamille, "but I want to sell the music I make."
Rhyme and reinvention
LO is wiry, energetic and outspoken. "I'm actually a shy person," she says, though it's hard to imagine. "But my desire to get published is stronger than my shyness." Lo, 31, has little interest in academia or grant applications. "I'm more of a satirist," she explains. "I use my poetry for social commentary."