Iva Hladis was born in Czechoslovakia in 1965. Her exposure to fine art began early in life, as both her father and mother were fine art painters. At fifteen, she became associated with "Charter 77 ", an underground political group that championed human rights in then Soviet occupied Czechoslovakia. This involvement resulted in her first serious works; a series of dark, emotional paintings of figures over restive backgrounds, paintings which portrayed the hopelessness and frustration of living under a repressive regime. Two principal artistic influences on this budding young talent were Josef Sima and Jan Zrzavy.