Nadezdais a painter, sculptor, photographer, and concept artist based in the Bay Area of California. Her artwork is focused on narratives carefully gathered from the hidden chambers of her imagination as well as live theater-inspired work with actors, dancers, and models. Like a quilt stitched of poetic realities, Nadezda’s mysterious world defies the mundane. With a non-linear creative process flowing between different media, the artist explores various vantage points in her creations. This dynamic approach inspires her mind’s eye to focus on the worlds within and evoke an uninterrupted, creative transmission which is then channeled through her paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, writing and film.
ME: What is your background and how did you become an artist? Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
N: Since childhood my family inspired me to embark on various creative journeys such as music, poetry, and theater, which are hereditary to the creative approaches I use in my artwork today. From a young age I wrote and performed songs and poetry, as well as acted in a local theater with my whole family. When I came to the US to study art, I joined the school called Safehouse Atelier, which focused on traditional academic drawing and painting, as well as digital concept art. After school I spent time working as a concept artist first for video games, then – feature films, while developing my own worlds through traditional media – mainly painting and drawing. Several years ago, I also expanded into sculpture and photography, which proved to become a harmonious extension to the ways I depict my worlds. I can’t imagine myself being anything else but an artist. Creating from the heart brings a sense of connectedness to the inner knowing of self as a human being and the world.
ME: Many of your paintings feel like snippets of a dream or vision. Where do your ideas come from?
N: My imaginary pieces come from many places. I keep my mind open to be able to perceive the elusive seedling-ideas, which come and go unexpectedly. They are so very important to the artwork, which will eventually grow from them. I have a small sketchbook where I record them and later use as a starting point for new pieces. Often the idea is hard to decipher – but I try not to over-analyze or find the immediate meaning. I just follow the intuition that those ideas are important because they are gifts from my subconscious. Sometimes when a piece is finished, I can see the traces of where certain motifs came from, but I never know for sure. Like a dream that is created by the mind’s mysterious quilt work, my art follows a similar organization – seemingly chaotic editing, which is brought together by intuition and techniques I have worked out to be the most effective in my art. The aspect of free play and improvisation, which I use in both imaginary and figurative work, helps to tap into the stream of ideas, which are already there, I just need to find a peace of mind, time and focus to see them. In figurative work – such ideas come during the stages of preparing concepts for a photoshoot as well as during a semi-improvised theatrical act that happens during each session.
ME: Do you use reference photos or does most of your artwork come from your imagination?
N: Both and everything in-between. Sometimes, especially for my figurative pieces, I use photo references, which I create during the theater sessions with models and performers. In that case most of the conceptual and improvisational work is done before I start working on the art piece, so I can just relax into the process of painting. It is one of the most linear approaches I use in my studio.
When I work on a fully imaginative piece, sometimes I start with a preliminary sketch, study, or a model, while keeping in mind that the creative process is a “conversation”, and that preparatory work is just a friendly suggestion on how to start the piece. I always let the painting speak back to me during its creation. It’s a practice of embracing the uncertainty and meditation on the fact that everything changes.
A few years ago, I began practicing the approach, which has been intimidating, but ended up being one of the most fulfilling – creating a piece that is improvised from the beginning: starting with a blank canvas with no preliminary preparations, letting the ideas flow out of the hidden mind chambers and then helping them sing together in the space provided by the canvas. This process is mysterious because I don’t know what the creation journey will bring and every time a new character and creature comes to the surface, I realize how unexplored, beautiful, and mysterious the world within is.
ME: You work in a variety of media including paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, writing and film. What work do you most enjoy doing?
N: Each media is good for different ideas, some of which would look good as a painting, but not as a sculpture, some emotions are better expressed in a photograph than in a painting, and so on. When an idea comes, I receive it equipped with a toolset of various media, from which I pick the one that fits best for each concept. A wholesome artist for me is the one whose vision transcends the media, if it’s a brush with oil paint, or just a stick and mud. Different media is an opportunity to learn and experiment because in the process you might end up combining some of them and create something even more unique. Shifting between different media keeps the creative mind agile, busts creative blocks and takes the creativity to places the artist’s mind wouldn’t even dream of, coming up with something authentic and beautiful.
ME: What is the goal of your art? What do you hope that viewers take away from the experience?
N: I don’t have a goal in art, but rather I see art as a way of living. I open my eyes in the morning and hope that the new day will bring an opportunity to create freely and from the bottom of my heart. It makes me feel alive and connected to humanity, because art can express the most abstract ideas and emotions which the words cannot. Through art I explore the obscure connections between things in my own inner world and in the world around us. It teaches me how to be brave, strong, and vulnerable at the same time. I hope that people looking at my art enjoy it as a journey to the metaphysical plains of abstract ideas and emotions, which don’t have to be analyzed or completely understood, but rather felt deep inside and beautifully mystified from within – in a similar way when I am creating my artwork.
ME: What are you currently working on in the studio?
N: I always have several paintings I work simultaneously on, switching between them depending on my mind du jour. Sometimes I get stuck and don’t know how to resolve the piece, so I put it aside. There is no need to pressure it into being resolved, because my subconscious helper is already working on figuring it out, and the solution usually presents itself in time. Meanwhile, I work on another painting, or a drawing or a sculpture. Such creative dance from one media to another feels most natural to me. I recently had a beautiful theater photo session, so I am working on figurative pieces inspired by it. There are several imaginary worlds in the making, full of characters and creatures going about their mysterious business. There is a sculpture “She-Chair” getting close to its completion.
ME: What do you enjoy doing when you aren't making art?
N: I find reading always inspiring – from books on philosophy, science, and art to fiction and poetry. Reading shows new perspectives and angles of view on art and life. Sometimes interesting combinations of words evoke new feelings and ideas. I collect those words, type them on my old typewriter and paste them on the studio wall. Some of them become visual concepts and inspire the artwork (“Collecting Sounds”, “Insurmountable Object”, “An Absurd Journey” – from my latest solo exhibition “Secret Hallway”).
I love traveling – seeing new people and places, learning new things about life outside of the comfort zone, getting visual and mental imprints onto the emulsion of memory, which will later surface in the form of new ideas.
Traveling and reading, learning, and observing the world, is like providing nutrients to the creative soil that gets depleted as we grow our art in it. When we nurture that soil, it gives us a lush creative garden in which an artist takes a walk every time she or he enters the studio.
ME: Who are your biggest influences?
N: I enjoy some ideas of the surrealist movement of the 20th century, as well as the metaphysical works by Giorgio de Chirico, boundless imagination of Leonora Carrington, and Dorothea Tanning. I like the energy of brushwork and colors of the impressionists such as Boldini and Mancini. I adore densely populated strange worlds of Hieronymus Bosch, Bruegel and illuminated manuscripts, as well as figurine sculptures of the ancient civilizations. I feel inspired by butoh dance and choreography by Pina Bausch. I love film work of Jean Cocteau, Federico Fellini, Luis Buñuel, and David Lynch. When it comes to poetry, I enjoy the rhythms and allegories of Vladimir Mayakovsky. Some of my favorite photographers are Sarah Moon, Francesca Woodman and Tim Walker. One of the biggest inspirations in life is my husband, whose creativity and art spirit have been my light in the darkest of days.
ME: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming/new artists?
N: Follow your heart. Find as many moments of creative solitude as you can, leaving the world’s distractions outside of your studio. Experiment, play, learn, work hard and most of all, enjoy the creative process. There is a beautiful world within, waiting to be discovered.
Aunia Kahn is a multi-faceted creative entrepreneur and a globally awarded, collected, and exhibited figurative artist/photographer, published author, instructor, and inspirational speaker. We asked Aunia a few questions for her artist of the day feature at the gallery.
On February 12, we opened Secret Hallway the highly anticipated solo exhibition from Oakland-based artist Nadezda. Focusing on narratives carefully gathered from the hidden chambers of her imagination and transformed into dreamscapes, her multifaceted artworks are the intimate windows into the inner world of her peculiar characters and creatures.
Enjoy this collection of photo highlights from Saturday August 14, 2021 for the opening reception of The Art of Art: Curated by Michael Cuffe. We were thrilled to have exhibition curator Michael Cuffe and many of the exhibiting artists in attendance with us. All photos by Michael Cuffe.