Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An interview with the artist Marina Povalishina

I met Marina on Etsy, a while ago. Her artwork commanded my attention. I love the emotions she captures in her artwork, her originality, and versatility in many different mediums. 

We have something in common, being born in foreign countries. We see life with different eyes, enriched by our experiences of knowing these two so different worlds. 
I see these worlds in Marina's artwork. I see images that delightfully remind me, and bring distinctive memories of the marvelous Russian literary classics  I read through my youth.

So finally, enjoy the interview. My only regret is that I couldn't interview Marina in person, sitting in one of the San Jose coffee shops and chat about art, living, our past and  present lives...

Tell me about yourself.

My name is Marina Povalishina. I was born in Russia and lived there until  my husband, two daughters and I moved to California. But I keep in touch with my homeland by visiting every other year. I received  my art education in Russia:  I received my MFA  in decorative and applied arts  from the Moscow Academy of Industrial and Applied Arts (formally Stroganoff College).  

What is your opinion of arts education? Is an artist born or made - or both? 

Today the  term  "artist" is used too loosely. It has been forgotten by many that creating art, like every other profession, requires specific skills. I  really enjoy professional pieces of art that display confidence, virtuosity, knowledge of subject , and taste. 

I don't like it when an author attempts to hide his or her weaknesses under the pretense of "style". I  hate situations when I catch myself unable to express my ideas and resorting to compromises. Ideally, I would be skilled enough to express all of  my thoughts on canvas or paper.
But that does not mean that it is possible to create an artist from anyone simply through art education; being an artist is more of a vocation then profession.

Two great artists come to mind: one was born into a family of artists and received a brilliant art education - graduating several art schools. Another one did not receive any formal education and even, as many experts say, destroyed all his sketches to hide his lack of drawing skill -  leaving us only his best paintings. Both artists were geniuses. The first was Pablo Picasso, the other was Francis Bacon. 

What are your earliest memories of art?

My participation in the children's art city contest when I was about six years old. I remember that I painted our city's dramatic theater on blue paper with white guache. I  won first place for it. 
Were there other artists in your family?


Why do you do what you do?

Because I love art; because I am used to doing it; because it is an essential part of my life.  I started my art education at the age of eleven at a local art school for children. After that I attended an art college. Then at an art academy. I don't remember a  time when I did anything  that was not related to art.  I don't know any other way of living. If it were taken from my life  I would probably panic and then fall into depression.

What work do you most enjoying doing?

I enjoy creating small graphic works the most because I can easily experiment with various materials and techniques.

I cannot say I truly enjoy creating my oil paintings.  It requires such intense concentration and hard work that it is difficult to enjoy. During the process, I experience a variety of emotions - from desperation to ecstasy-  but I cannot say I enjoy the process, meaning it is not a relaxing pastime.

What jobs have you done other than being an artist?

I have been a guide and an oil painting restorer in an art museum, a graphic designer and an art teacher. I have even been a night-watch-woman. It was the only time when my work was not related to art, but during the day I prepared for entrance exams to an art academy. 

What do you miss most about your country?

I miss the company of my friends, mostly artists, with whom we would stay up all night  in someone's studio, talking about art, life, books, and philosophy. I sometimes need that kind of communication; it gives me inspiration and energy; it makes me younger and more enthusiastic. Unfortunately I have not found this type of  friends here. 

The second thing I miss about my country  is its colors of nature. California's nature , of course, is beautiful, gorgeous, splendid. Russia's nature cannot compete with California's magnificence. But I miss all those subtle delicate tones, colors, shades of Russia's twilight in the summer, the melancholic fading of colors in the fall, all those hues of white in the winter and rebirth of color in the spring. Only those who go through a long cold winter can fully appreciate the beauty of the  spring's beginning. 

What do you like—and/or don't like— about living in California?

I like how people are polite and friendly here. I like how people from different parts of the planet  can live here together so respectively.  But I don't like how often politeness becomes a habit when communication with other and the smiles turn out  to be just masks -  quickly put on faces - and greetings became just repeated words that mean nothing. 

People here often show much more enthusiasms towards you than they really feel. I would like to see more natural emotions in communication.

What inspires you?

Any artwork of any period and origin can inspire me. Classic music inspires me. Nature inspires me.

Conversations with  my best friends inspire me. Inspiration may come from everywhere. There are no breaks for artists; they always notice, catch and  feel beauty in everything around them. These thoughts and images continuously remain in the back of one's mind until suddenly a new image or idea springs up. 

What makes you angry?


What research do you do?

Right now I am doing research for my trip to Italy. It is exciting. 

 Name something you love, and why.

I love all beauty that is created by nature and man!
I love trees. They appear to me as astonishing creations on the Earth that we rarely notice.
I love my family, because it is my family.
I love art supply stores, because they are so mouth watering.
I love bookstores and libraries, because I love reading.
I much... 

Name something you don’t love, and why.

I don't love doctors' offices, hospitals and everything that is related to sickness and diseases.

What is your dream project?

I can not say I have a dream project. The purpose of creating, for me, is more the process than the result. Although, of course, I want to see my work finished.  

Creation of artwork is like a risky trip to an unknown land: it harbors discoveries and losses; happiness and grief;  luck and danger. I define my main purpose of creating art as a quest for the land of my absolute inner freedom.               

Favorite writer, favorite song, favorite inspiration ?

I cannot name one favorite song or writer.  However, there are some books  that I constantly re-read, such as "The Brothers Karamazov" by Dostoevsky  or "The Luzhin Defense" by Vladimir Nabokov.
"The Luzhin Defense" is a masterpiece marked with Nabokov's unbelievable ability to manipulate language and create images with words. 

Among artists, Van Eyck, Rembrandt, Bruegel, Francis Bacon are some of my favorites that come to mind.

Where can one view your work online?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Green, how I love you green



I remember my Language teacher in High School introducing Lorca's poetry. Very often she would choose me to read in front of the class. 

"Somnambule Ballad" was the first Lorca's poem I ever read. So many years after, this ballad comes to my mind quite often, especially while working on anything green, fiber arts or painting,  the first few lines of the poem come to me:

Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea
and the horse on the mountain.

I think of a lonely gypsy girl waiting on her balcony under the mystical green gypsy moon.


Somnambule Ballad
by Federico Garcia Lorca

Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea
and the horse on the mountain.
With the shade around her waist
she dreams on her balcony,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
Green, how I want you green.
Under the gypsy moon,
all things are watching her
and she cannot see them.

Green, how I want you green.
Big hoarfrost stars
come with the fish of shadow
that opens the road of dawn.
The fig tree rubs its wind
with the sandpaper of its branches,
and the forest, cunning cat,
bristles its brittle fibers.
But who will come? And from where?
She is still on her balcony
green flesh, her hair green,
dreaming in the bitter sea.

--My friend, I want to trade
my horse for her house,
my saddle for her mirror,
my knife for her blanket.
My friend, I come bleeding
from the gates of Cabra.
--If it were possible, my boy,
I'd help you fix that trade.
But now I am not I,
nor is my house now my house.
--My friend, I want to die
decently in my bed.
Of iron, if that's possible,
with blankets of fine chambray.
Don't you see the wound I have
from my chest up to my throat?
--Your white shirt has grown
thirsy dark brown roses.
Your blood oozes and flees a
round the corners of your sash.
But now I am not I,
nor is my house now my house.
--Let me climb up, at least,
up to the high balconies;
Let me climb up! Let me,
up to the green balconies.
Railings of the moon
through which the water rumbles.

Now the two friends climb up,
up to the high balconies.
Leaving a trail of blood.
Leaving a trail of teardrops.
Tin bell vines
were trembling on the roofs.
A thousand crystal tambourines
struck at the dawn light.

Green, how I want you green,
green wind, green branches.
The two friends climbed up.
The stiff wind left
in their mouths, a strange taste
of bile, of mint, and of basil
My friend, where is she--tell me--
where is your bitter girl?
How many times she waited for you!
How many times would she wait for you,
cool face, black hair,
on this green balcony!
Over the mouth of the cistern
the gypsy girl was swinging,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
An icicle of moon
holds her up above the water.
The night became intimate
like a little plaza.
Drunken "Guardias Civiles"
were pounding on the door.
Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea.
And the horse on the mountain.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The IOU Project

A few days ago I received an e-mail that pointed me to the IOU Project. I didn't pay much attention until today when I finally looked at the video.

The movement to celebrate uniqueness is about to begin.

Kavita Parmar has a great vision. She is a fashion designer, and this is her newest challenge. In May 2011, Maison Raasta, her company will launch "The IOU Project", aimed at younger audiences who are more and more flocking to the internet in search of fashion. The project's  goal is to produce a cool and casual, but also 100% sustainable clothing line, challenging the way that the fashion industry works.

What I really like about the project is the idea to wage a real battle against the pollution of industrial mass productions. Their motivation lies in celebrating uniqueness, promoting artisans and designers working together the way they're supposed to.

Countless artisans in India, working as weavers and producing about 50 million meters of fabric per day without using power and electricity. Using cotton dyed with natural techniques.

I can't think of a better way of supporting them and letting them do what they know best.

Friday, April 22, 2011


"Fragments" - that's how I named my recently made series of cuffs. The name came instantly by itself , just as I was taking photos of the finished pieces. All these different beads I used, separated by design and then connected again with embroidery threads.

fragment - noun
  1. a part broken away from a whole; broken piece
  2. a detached, isolated, or incomplete part
  3. the part that exists of a literary or other work left unfinished
It brings me thoughts about our lives. All of us that got separated from our families, countries, by choice, or by circumstances. We're fragments, parts broken away from extended families, places of birth. Yet, we still have connections, our threads that link us back to them. 

Looking at my kids growing up, I can't escape thinking about the future. They will leave one day, following their lives, taking little fragments of my soul with them.

Fragments in beige

Fragments in brown

Fragments in green

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Brown fantasies

Going back and forth between painting, fiber arts and jewelry making. That's a good description of my working week in studio. There are always ongoing projects around me, and it really works fine for me. Through the years I really learned to follow my guts, and pause if I'm not sure where I'm going with whatever I'm working on. Occasionally, it happens that I don't paint for a week or two because I get involved with a series of fiber arts that I can't drop and leave alone, or vice versa. 

I love up-cycling fabrics in my fiber arts. It just brings me a deep satisfaction knowing that nothing is thrown away. These art pouches are result of that. Each fabric scrap has a memory  of its own, and combined with  other pieces becomes a whole new piece ready to make a whole set of new memories in its new life.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Blue field

This piece was on a side burner for a quite some time, as I worked on another series of paintings. I finally finished it last month, and now it's available for purchase at Wasburn Imports in Orlando. It belongs to the series of my bigger mixed media fields, size 36"x48". It was the first blue themed field, after many reds and purples. The first few years of my artistic adventures I avoided blue colors. My artwork was evolving around red shades, and then in this last year or two I impulsively decided to use blues too. And I love it! I'm really happy with how this field  turned out.  

I really didn't think about any symbolism when I got the idea for this artwork.
Going back in history the Blue Flower is considered the central symbol of Romanticism, emblem of love, desire and impossible longing. It was a movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, partly as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution.

The Blue Flower was used as a symbol by many writers and poets of that time:
The Blue Flower
by Joseph von Eichendorff

I'm looking for the flower,
I seek and never find them,
I dream that in the flower
My good fortune to me blooms.

I wander with my harp
By countries, cities and Au'n,
Whether nowhere in the Round
Schaun to the flower.

I wander since long
Have long hoped to familiar
But alas, I have never yet
The blue looked Blum.

And to go back to more recent times, here is another poem by the contemporary American poet:

Words to Accompany a Bunch of Cornflowers
by Bibbsons Ruark

Those beads of lapis, even the classical
Blues of dawn, are dimmed by comparison.
When I hand you this bunch of cornflowers
The only other color in the room
Illumines your eyes as you arrange them.

They are the blue reflection of whatever
Moves in you, serene as cool water tipped
Into crystal, oddly enough the willing bride
To a cloudy head of melancholy
So deeply blue it could prove musical.

This is the blue John Lee Hooker’s gravelly
Voice in the sundown field was looking for.
This is the unrequited dream of an iris.
Ice blue, spruce blue, little periwinkle blue—
Nothing else that dies is exactly so blue.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A weekend reunion

I'm tired today, and it's funny, because I didn't do anything this weekend except relaxing. We spent the weekend at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress at Lake Buena Vista. We attended a 15 year old birthday party/reunion. It has become a sort of a tradition, organized by our friends. It involved five families and 12 children. We met 12 years ago when our firstborns started Montessori Preschool together.

Through the years new siblings were added to the group, and followed their footsteps. It's amazing to see how they're all more and more grown up, year after year. They've known each other since almost toddler age. After Montessori they went to different schools, sometimes not seeing each other for months and months, but when they get together they're just so comfortable with each other and the fun continues right there where they left it last time. The age difference between them spans across 11 years, but they take care of the youngest one effortlessly.
This resort is a fantastic place for fun. The kids spent a lot of time in the water, hopping from pool to pool, water slide, hot tub in a cave, biking and just running around. No wonder that my kids slept like a babies last night.

My husband and I enjoyed the lush landscape, as we walked a lot around the resort (well, we had to burn a lot of calories after the delicious, over the top meals we had). We found ourselves  admiring all the beautiful bromelias, and other blooms spread around the grounds, in the shades of plentiful trees. We discovered countless sculptures nested in the flower beds. The landscape was so lush and dark green, it made me think about how much effort is spent on maintaining it,  and left me wondering about how much fertilizer and pesticides are needed for the upkeep.

It was very hot , around 90 degrees both days. As hot as Florida gets in the summer. Heat that drains you, if you spend too much time outside, and that's how I feel now, drained. Today, except my morning bike ride I won't be going much outside. I'm happy in an AC environment today, organizing my studio a bit, and contemplating my next project.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rasta cuff

Last week I got a custom order on Etsy from a nice girl in England. I had to postpone working on it since I had a few paintings to finish and deliver. She wanted a cuff in rasta colors, but more muted and earthyfied. At first I wasn't sure in which direction I should go, but then after I combined a few scraps of fabric on my desk, it slowly came together.

I'm a very impulsive person, and very often  I start working on my fiber arts or paintings without a clear image in my head. I like to let the project develop by itself. This is a final result, and I really like it.
My Etsy customer liked it, too. It's getting shipped to England today.