Alexandra Rozenman is an artist now living and working in New England after coming to America as a political refugee from Moscow at the end of the 80s. Her paintings reveal simple scenes of beauty and most often peace – a utopia so perfect that it could only exist within four walls of canvas. Her new show, “Transplanted” continues her exploration of scenic storytelling, using color and shape to serve as a narrative for each viewer to interpret on their own.
What was the first thing you can remember painting?
I started painting when I was 5 taking classes at the Fine Art Museum in Moscow. There is a photograph taken at the dacha that my parents rented in 1977 for the summer. I am sitting at the easel looking very serious. Painting on an easel tells a story the same way my work does now: there is a house in the woods and a fairytale character: Petrushka ! ( Petrushka is a stock character of Russian folk puppetry, known at least since 17th century). I would not be surprised if I found out about him from a Stravinsky ballet that has the same name, because may be there was not always paper, but the theater was affordable, wonderful and available. This painting has two big eyes in the sky – one of the images in my work for the last 20 years.
Do you have any routines required for the creation of your work?
In ideal world I prefer to work in the morning after 2-3 cups of strong black tea. Afterwards I eat good lunch and have a nap! Then work for 2-3 hours more. I like to feel alienated when I work. I like listening to a very loud music (something nobody will guess I do). With the schedule I have right now ( I started my own private art school www.artschool99.com) and am teaching almost every day for 5 hours or so). I am trying to cut out pieces of time for myself and just make it work. A tight schedule became one of my art materials:)
How do you find the right color scheme for each scene?
I don’t think I find the right color. I allow colors to find me. Paint floats and has its own mind based on subject matter, technique, materials, time, space. It is alive for me and my goal is to allow it to grow up (like a plant) and only later – some time in the middle of the painting process – start changing it, based on my instinct, ideas and goals. Each painting is different.
Where do you hope to take the viewer with your paintings, and why?
I tell my viewer a story, allow them to enter into the world of magic and hope that they will get curious and will spend some time thinking and looking around. My work expresses longing for understanding and being understood, for non-belonging and finding a place to be. Playfulness in my work points to instability of life – visually, culturally and literally. I am working playing on the conflicts between identity and assimilation, tradition and modernity, so each viewer can take my messages and interpret them any way they want and discover for themselves. I want the viewer to start wondering after looking at my paintings, if maybe things are a bit different sometimes, maybe something can still be both beautiful and interesting at the same time.
How would you describe your style of painting?
In todays world “style” is usually a combination of many different styles, isms and personal history or/and an artists place in the world. Inside my work liquid layers and thick abstractly painted surfaces meet familiar landscapes, and create a place where I explore the world through the mixture of autobiography, symbolism and philosophy. I am a mix of Moscow alternative cultural scene of the 1980’s ( my visual vocabulary, environments, approach to a hidden metaphor are all coming from their ), Painting for paintings sake, Abstract Expressionism, New image painting, Fauvism , 16th-17th century Romanticism and Symbolism can all be found in my work.
My favorite artists are: Bruegel, Vermeer, Turner, Matisse, Richard Diebenkorn, Joan Snyder and Frida Kahlo. For many many years my work has been compared to Marc Chagall. I like his early work and am even really related to his first wife (Bella Rosenfeld) – my Great Grand father is her younger brother, but I don’t think that he is my main influence. However, if there is a group of artists called “Jewish Artists” I am sure I am a part of it.
How does “Transplanted” expand upon the styles and themes your work has already been exploring?
For me “Transplanted” has a seed of placing myself in the world of art. Thoughts and practice on what it is to be a painter in the 21st century. Saying that replanted artists, immigrants from the disintegrated homeland, like myself, survive against all odds
And, kind of a random one: what’s your favorite color?
I don’t think I have one favorite color. I love color. It depends on what it is for. There is one color that I strongly dislike: pink. I agree with Matisse who said that:”The use of expressive colors is felt to be one of the basic elements of the modern mentality, an historical necessity, beyond choice.”
See Alexandra’s website for more of her work.
“Transplanted” is on view at the Multicultural Arts Center in East Cambridge, MA from January 3 – April 8, 2013.