Cubism 2.0 – Daniella Mani Chaim
Whose art is cubist like a Picasso, do you have to stand back to get the whole picture like a Signac while also being heavily influenced by pop culture like Warhol? It’s sixteen-year-old Beverly Hills native, Daniella Mani-Chaim aka The Cubist. The Cubist is currently building a name for herself in the modern art space, one Rubik’s cube at a time. An avid art lover and devoted sneakerhead, Daniella creates pixelated works of art, using only Rubik’s’ cubes and her ingenuity.
Between school, hanging out with friends, tv interviews and “cubing,” I had the pleasure of catching up with Mani-Chaim about her beginnings, inspirations and future plans.
Ilana Fish: Why Rubik’s’ cubes? How did you decide on that as a medium for creating your art?
The Cubist: For the longest time, I’ve had a passion for art and solving puzzles. Crossword puzzles, Legos, you name it. About six months before the lockdown, I was playing with a couple Rubik’s’ cubes in my room, and that’s when the idea hit me. I asked my parents to buy me 1,000 cubes and, thinking it was just a phase, they initially said “no.” They thought that similar to other toys and games my four siblings and I obtained over the years, these cubes would be played with for a few days then forgotten. After two months of begging, they finally gave in and got me the 1,000 cubes. When I finished my first image, they were really wowed. When quarantine hit, I saw it as the most opportunistic time to really explore this new interest I had in Rubik’s cube art and it pretty much took off from there.
Ilana: Wow, talk about fortunate timing! How does a rainbow-colored cube become a portrait of Kobe Bryant? Can you walk me through the process?
The Cubist: Well, first I start out with a regular-sized picture of the subject and graph it out on my computer. If it’s a commissioned piece, I’ll send the final result back to the client, and begin the construction process. Then, I carefully graph out the image onto the actual canvas I’ll be using, that way I’ll know the proper placement of color. Finally, I can begin solving Rubik’s cubes and placing them in their designated spaces. I uniquely solve each cube to form the necessary details and shadows that cre – ate the larger image.
Ilana: Safe to say, you can put “detail-oriented” on your resume. How did you go from doing this as a hobby to a serious endeavor?
The Cubist: I started out just making pieces for family and friends in my living room. and created an Instagram account. My friends and family reposted me and I gradually started getting more of a following. I feel like it became more legitimate when I began getting requests for custom pieces and PR companies contacting me. I’m actually shipping out a piece to Switzerland next week. Having been doing this for three and a half years, I wouldn’t call it a job, because I truly love it, but it’s undoubtedly become a serious pursuit of mine. I’ve since outgrown my living room and have migrated into my own studio.
Ilana: Being a high school junior, do you see yourself doing this beyond high school?
The Cubist: Absolutely. I love it. I’m in my studio almost every day and love every step of the creative process. I want to do this for the rest of my life.
Ilana: How do you balance, school and social life with this passion?
The Cubist: It’s hard but I do it. I end school around two or three o’clock and come to the studio for two to three hours a day before coming home and doing my homework. My friends are a very import – ant part of my life, so I make sure to see them most every day.
Ilana: So important for mental health. A question I am sure you get a lot is, how fast can you solve a Rubik’s cube? The Cubist: A little under a minute – so not that fast.
Ilana: Well, it takes the average person about three hours to solve one, so I’d have to disagree!
The Cubist: Ha-ha well I guess so then! About three years ago, I used to be faster. To be able to solve a Rubik’s cube quickly, an algorithm needs to be memorized and a lot of practice is needed to get the speed down. Since starting my business, I don’t have time to practice speed-cubing. I solve them for the art aspect of it, not the speed.
Ilana: How long does it take you to complete a piece?
The Cubist: It depends on the size of the canvas and complexity of the design. Usually between one and two months.
Ilana: Where do you draw your inspiration for your pieces and who do you look up to?
The Cubist: I find inspiration every – where I go. I look up to my parents and grandparents. They’ve supported me the whole way and are still here throughout every step of the process. All the emails I get, ordering all of the cubes – we’re all in it together. I guess you can say it’s a family business.
Ilana: That is so special! I know you’ve recently had shows at an Alice + Olivia pop-up, as well as at The Greystone Mansion – that’s huge, mazal tov! Are you repped by any galleries?
The Cubist: Thanks! No. I do it all on my own.
Ilana: Who are your favorite artists?
The Cubist: Without question, Mr. Brainwash and Andy Warhol.
Ilana: I also love Warhol. Switching gears a bit – what role does Judaism play in your art, or your life in general?
Cubist: The family and communal aspect of Judaism really plays an important role in my life. To me, Judaism and family are synonymous, and my family plays a positive and impactful role in my art.
Ilana: I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment. Lastly, if someone was coming to LA and wanted to explore the art scene, where would you recommend they venture?
The Cubist: I would tell them to check out the Broad Museum.
Daniella Mani-Chaim proves that with dedication, talent, originality, and an in – credible support system, pixel perfection is possible. Picasso. Signac. Balla. Dix. Warhol. Haring. Banksy. The Cubist. Now you have heard of them all.