I was born and brought up in a small Moscow suburban town Khotkovo, surrounded by woods and temples. I can see and remember myself as a little quiet girl living in her own world and playing with her own angels and spirits. I remember this little world of mine as a huge and very interesting one, to the extent that I didn’t have the need to communicate with other children. They seemed somewhat foreign to me, to my world.
When I turned 9 my parents were unaware that I applied to an art school, and got accepted. The long and exciting years of studying began.
I loved to be with my father. He always smelled of wood shavings; and parts of it, I could always find in his beard. Even now the smell of wood sends me back to my magical childhood world. He was a genius woodcarving artist. And whenever he would come, we would always make something up — painted wood, make a fabulous dinner or walk in the woods; but this was rare, since he lived on Sakhalin Island at that time, 6,000 miles away.
He taught me to love fairy-tales, folk art, symbols, and ornaments. Once he said to me, “Read fairy-tales. There’s everything there you need to know. All the wisdom and all the philosophy that you would need in your life.” It was only when I grew up that I fully understood what he was saying.
But one day my life had completely changed — my father turned into flames and flew away. I was 11 at that time. He passed away trying to put out the fire that engulfed our house. I remember that evening, when father turned suddenly into a fire butterfly, and I saw myself piercing through the looking glass in the search of fire butterflies. Where do they fly? And what are they — our souls?
Ever since it remains the main question to resolve, both as a human and as an artist. Who am I? What am I doing, here, on this Earth? With pencils and brushes in hand, I went inside myself to search for the answers.
The loss of my father led me to the church. I can’t imagine how I could have survived without it. I felt protected there, and it smelled of wood. Everything seemed magical in the temple, just like in my magical world. Icons clad in gold that shined in the candlelight, the smell of incense, and the presence of Higher Power. It was then that the ideas and images of my future paintings started coming to me. It was then when I fully realized that I was an artist who came to this planet to give the joy of wonder and wisdom of life through my paintings. And ever since the most interesting subject for me is the Man-God relationship, the relationship between Man and the Universe, — where Mankind is the measure of all things; as well as Man’s relationship with himself and with other people and worlds. This, consequently, resulted in my exploring the relationship between Microcosm and Macrocosm, as well as the influence symbols, images, and colors produce upon our conscious and subconscious.
Upon my High School graduation I entered a Wood-Carving Department of an Art College. I wanted to take after my father and started woodcarving, just as he did. We also studied folk art and artisanship, material and ornamental culture of the peoples of the world, etc. I imbibed the knowledge like a sponge. Everything mesmerized me.
After the college I got accepted in the Russian I.E. Repin Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg, the most prestigious art institution in Russia, and indeed one of the most prestigious in the world. I began years of arduous studies away from home. After classes I would paint my ‘Harlequin’ pictures and send them back home where my art agent would sell them. The money I got would help me to support myself, and my elder son, — the only one at that time, — who lived with my mom back home.
During my sophomore year at the Academy I became increasingly ill at ease with a load of strictly academic requirements in painting, and was infinitely happy to transfer to the Theatre Design Department in my third year at the Academy. There I once again plunged in my world of symbols, images, spaces, and new worlds. There came a number of new subjects: set design, my beloved material culture, costume. My graduation thesis — set design for the Rimsky-Korsakov opera “The Tale of Tsar Saltan” — became the best in our class and was honored Cum Laude by the Academy Council.
During my sophomore year at the Academy, another turning point in my life occurred. I went to India and the Himalayas. This trip had completely changed my viewpoint in the world. I found my world and my philosophy of life. The depths and grandeur of Indian cosmogony opened the vistas of my way back to myself.
Later, I lived and painted in India, participated in numerous exhibitions there, visited many international exhibitions and art fairs, studied and learned a lot. Living in India enriched my palette, composition, my world viewpoint.
Now I live and work in the New York Metro area. And if Russia is the country of my roots, and India is the one of my soul; the United States is the country where it all comes together, — it is the country where I and my art flourish and thrive.