Arianne Zager was working on a painting in a remote area in West Africa when she ran out of water.
"I thought, 'How am I going to finish my watercolor?' So I went to the ocean and filled the jar with saltwater," says the Twin Cities watercolor artist. "And that's when it dawned on me: I was going to compose watercolors out of found water."
Whether it's from an ancient well in India, blessed water from a Buddhist temple in Indonesia or melted snow, Zager's work reveals how paint pigments react dramatically differently depending on the source. A stream in the hills of northern Sierra Leone rendered bright neons whereas the same pigments blended with lake water in New Delhi produced an almost gray hue. Those varying hues drive her paintings, in which she explores the concept of women and beauty.
"Beauty is perfectly imperfect and that constantly needs a light shown on it," she says.
Her "Hand Dipped" collection, which contains more than 130 pieces, has been shown in Spain, Germany, Russia and Thailand. She also regularly shows in New York, where she was based for more than 12 years.
The 40-year-old La Crosse, Wis., native also has made a name for herself in the fashion world. When she was 18, she moved to New York, where she received an undergraduate degree in fashion design and merchandising. Her résumé includes working for design houses Jill Stuart, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Mossimo as well as for a private label for Snoop Dogg.
Now that she's in the Twin Cities, Zager shows her watercolors at local galleries and her apparel designs at Fashion Week MN. The designer's label, ZaGaZa Production, recently rolled out a Fall 2021 collection featuring hand-crocheted clothing.
Zager, whose designs are couture, says she hopes to broaden how the Black community is represented. "When talking to Black models, I was hearing a lot that they're only chosen for hip-hop or urban settings," she says. "I want to do high-end modern couture as a pushback."