I was born and raised in Novosibirsk, Russia….what Americans know as “Siberia”.
When I was growing up in my small town, I didn’t have access to the type of resources and opportunities my children now have, and so never had a formal way of pursuing my passion for art. But I was always involved in some kind of art project for my own enjoyment… whether it was a painting, collage, dolls, photography, digital art, knitting, sewing. I loved it all.
I moved to the United States in 1998 to pursue a career in architecture. But in 2009, with a small child and another baby on the way, and a husband who was self-employed, I was laid off. This was devastating to me and my family. I took it as a sign that I needed to change my path in life, so I took a clay class near at the art center my house. I had never worked with clay before, and as I began working with this new substance I found faces just started popping out my hand… faces that were happy, sad, silly, excited, nervous… all kinds of human emotions. I loved it! Desperately craving more training, I sought out and began taking classes by well-established artists. The more classes I took, the more I wanted. I just loved this substance and the way it allowed all these emotions to flow through my fingers and create wonderful snapshots of human expression. Since then I was published in numerous magazines and won awards.
My work focuses on the emotions that make us all human…….and centers on facial expressions as the representation of those emotions. My ideas typically come from a phrase I heard or a picture I saw, or a “moment” I observed. And for as much as I enjoy creating these facial expressions in clay, I also enjoy seeing the emotions and expressions brought out in people when they see my work for the first time. Especially laughter. I love it when one of my sculptures makes someone smile!
I portray people’s emotions, expressions, and human nature through clay. Through clay busts, I evoke the human experience of smugness, carelessness, drunkenness, joy, sadness, melancholy, or sullenness. My intention is for the observer to find humor in my work, while recognizing the truth of the emotions expressed. To me, emotions are what makes us human, and facial expressions are the voices of those emotions. I use clay to express my observations on the basic humanistic qualities that surround me and that surround us all.
You say growing up in small town in Russia, you didn’t haveaccess to the type of resources and opportunities your children now have,and so never had a formal way of pursuing your passion for art. Tell me more about that, how did it all start for you in the world of art?
Zhanna: Growing up in Russia, I did not have a lot of toys and my sister and I often made our own dolls and dressed them up; we were always making something out of what we could find around. Now I realize the value of that experience. I also loved painting, drawing, and anything creative. But at that time I did not fully understand that what I was doing was “Art”. I just knew it as things I loved doing. And “Art” was certainly not a professional career path known in my little town. So I wound up going to college in Russia for Architecture.
What is the process from start to a final artwork, do you envision it from the beginning or is it a different process?
What challenges have you faced in your creative work?
Who are your biggest influences?
Your art is very unique. What are some of the tools you use to create a distinct style of artwork?
How do you seek out opportunities and, what is the best way to reach people that are interested in your art?
What are your plans for the future with regards to your style? Are you considering other themes or subjects, or some other mediums?
You say your intention is for the observer to find humor in your work, while recognizing the truth of the emotions expressed. Are there any secret messages you are trying to send with your art?
Zhanna: Life is about the joy we feel. We have many talented artists who cover deep, provocative, dark or intense sides of human nature. I just want to spread joy and smiles. My stories are about the emotions (mostly happy) of regular people. My art pieces are intuitive and are about life and daily living. “The secret message” is to recognise every little joy coming your way.