Interview: Artist Yulia Kuznetsova

His_©_Yulia_Kuznetsova His | Collage media, watercolor, colored pencils on board | 14″ x 12″ | © Yulia Kuznetsova 2018

Q: What’s your background, and how long have you been working in the US?

A: I was born in 1993 in Moscow, Russia. I am the only child in the family with my father, the breadwinner and a supporter of all our relatives, my mother, the housewife, who is taking care of the household, and my grandparents. I have been growing up surrounded by love and protection of my parents.

I have been fond of making art since early youth and I was attending the art school in Moscow. After graduating both, the high school and the art school I, with help of my parents, managed to enroll in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago…

I have been working in the U.S. for a year and four months. While I was studying here in Chicago, I have had jobs on campus as well.

Memories of the Raspberry Bushes | Graphite, gouache on paper, 16,4″ x 11,8″ | © Yulia Kuznetsova 2018

Q: What made you pick Chicago?

A: Initially, I applied to different top art schools in the U.S. such as Pasadena College, Maryland School of Art, Pratt in New York and even Yale. However, I got accepted in School of the Art Institute earlier than I even heard from any other ones and decided not to wait but to go to Chicago.

Mr. Salmon | Collage media, watercolor, ink, colored pencils on board | 14″ x 12″ | © Yulia Kuznetsova 2018

Q: Tell us about your work – do you have preferred media and subject matter?

A: I love drawing and painting human figures, nature, abstractions, and allegories. In my world, these subjects dwell intrinsically tight together and cannot neither develop, nor exist without each other. While developing my subject matter, I am particularly fond of portraying feelings, emotions, different states of the mind (love, hate, pain, trauma, suffering, joy, state of remembering, awareness, and etc.) and subconsciousness. I utilize art media, such as oil paints, gouache, watercolors, tempera, pencils, and inks. In addition, I am fond of making collages and work with an airbrush.

In The Golden Cage | Collage on paper, ink, gouache, watercolor, colored pencils | 18.5″ x 11.5″ | © Yulia Kuznetsova 2018

Q: Is art education / training different here?

A: Absolutely. The art education here in America is more about self-exploration, personal growth and freedom of expression. In Russia the emphasis lies in mastering the Academic technique and draftsmanship, as a result, depersonalizing the arts in general.

An artist has to explore oneself and look his or her “demons” right in the eye in order to make great art. Being fearless in whatever you do and passionately believe in is what l learned here.

Invisible Circus | Oil on canvas | 73″ x 49″ | © Yulia Kuznetsova 2016

Q: What differences have you seen in the art world here, as opposed to at home?

A: The most significant factor is diversity. Compared to the overarching governmental control, prohibition and propaganda in Russian social structures and media, I found it absolutely compelling and inspiring that in American art world every artist can afford having unique ways to direct his or her creativity without undergoing pressures of social prejudices and rejection, as it often happens in Russia.

In the U.S. I view my art making as amalgamation of my current living experiences and memories. I have been developing that process in a way of telling a personal story by walking a path of self discovery.

The fact that your art can be moving and significant to humanity, opposed to the strive of making mechanical reproductions, is a fundamental difference I have discovered after coming in the U.S.

I Do Everything for You | Gouache, ink, colored pencils, collage elements on paper | 10″ x 12″ | © Yulia Kuznetsova 2017

Q: It sounds like your work has changed as a result of living here.

A: I found myself in my work here. Well, back in Russia I use to make pictures that would’ve never left my room and gone on display. But in America I realized that anything I’ve done “secretly” before I can embrace and give wings to with maturer realization and experience, of corse. My art has changed from merely academic to the one which tells personal story. Increasingly supportive art community at SAIC and outside has supported my first humble steps in pursuing my own art language.

Wishful Thinking | Gouache, ink, colored pencils, collage on paper | 10″ x 12″ | © Yulia Kuznetsova 2017

Q: You’re working hard to stay here. What are the challenges you’re encountering?

A: I work a lot of hours at my job as a Studio Manager at Tony Fitzpatrick’s studio and, at the same time, I have to work on managing time to do my own art. Adjusting to that tight schedule has been very challenging and emotionally exhausting experience. But “taming” time for my best interest it is an absolute necessity that l will be undergoing my entire life. Also, fulfilling my O-1 visa requirements would have been impossible without a number of passionate and supportive people, including my dearest boss and friend, Tony Fitzpatrick. Gaining the media attention is also a challenge I have never encountered before.

Horrors of the Mind | Pencil, liquid graphite on paper | 24″ x 18″ | © Yulia Kuznetsova 2017

Q: Are you hoping to stay here past graduation?

A: It has been already a year and four months since I have graduated and every day since then I am living with the utmost determination that I want to stay and continue my artistic career in the United States. I have my best friends and significant others who I care about and who I cannot imagine of leaving behind. I see my life and the future where I am right now and I am ready to fight for it at great costs.

Out There In Nature | Tempera and pastel on canvas | © Yulia Kuznetsova 2016 – 2017

Q: It sounds as though you’d like to become a U.S. citizen.

A: I am working on it, yes. My family has sacrificed almost all their significant physical possessions to bring me out here which wasn’t in vain because I truly fell in love with this country.

I know there are complications and problems related to immigration, especially nowadays; however, I do not lose hope to become a U.S. citizen.

Out! | Gouache, colored pencils on paper | 10″ x 15″ | © Yulia Kuznetsova 2018

Q: Russia has been in the news here a lot lately. Has that impacted you personally?

A: I’m over the top busy right now to pay a lot of attention to the news about Russia. Sometimes reading the newsfeed I feel like a bystander. I want to remain in that role as long as possible and I only wish the news about Russia were not so ridicule and extreme.

Bird View | Graphite on paper | 10″x 12″ | © Yulia Kuznetsova 2017

Q: What’s the one thing most Americans get wrong about Russia?

A: Based on my observation, many foreign individuals visiting Russia get hypnotized by sightseeing of Russian architecture and admire beauty of its nature. I will not argue with that but a lot of my friends here in America take beauty of age-old, almost fairy-tale-like buildings and structures as if that actually is happy and almost dreamy reality of Russian modern society. I have grown to care less about beauty of concrete and bricks without freedom.

Love | Ink on paper | 16,5″ x 22″ | © Yulia Kuznetsova 2018
Ana | Tempera on canvas | 62.5″ x 49″ | © Yulia Kuznetsova 2015