Tanya Levina

Born in Minsk, Belarus, Tanya Levina moved to New York City in 1995 as a Russian Jewish refugee. She studied painting at the Arts Students League, Slade School of Fine Arts in London and The New York Academy of Art. Tanya is a recipient of a COJECO Blueprint Fellowship award and has been featured in numerous exhibitions at venues including Trask Gallery at the National Arts Club, NYC, Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Art Center, MD and MoRA (Museum of Russian Art) in Jersey City, NJ. Her work can be found in private collections in Moscow, London, New York, Chicago and Boston.

From the Artist... "My subjects are rooted in aspects of my experiences or fantasies derived from them. Growing up in a large, northern metropolis, with grey buildings and scant greenery, I became drawn to horses, even before I ever saw one in real life. In photographs horses looked like beautiful, magical creatures; they were unlike anything that I’ve encountered in the city. Likewise, I was attracted to large, colorful, beautiful flowers, such as the iris and the gladiolus, for as they, too, seemed to belong to a different universe, visible only in picture books and holiday postcards. I started drawing mainly to express my admiration for these seemingly impossible natural phenomena, which remain a frequent subject in my work, now existing in the liminal space between natural reality and nature as refracted through childhood memory.

When I was 11, my family moved to Brooklyn, New York from Minsk, Belarus. As an immigrant from the former USSR, I am fascinated by the Russian immigrant community in Brooklyn, and the absurdities and contradictions that abound in it. I paint the everyday moments which encapsulate that sometimes insular Diaspora experience, where poverty and extravagance are inexplicably coupled, and where old world values are constantly clashing with modern American culture. My series offers a small window into this world, from the eyes of an American who nevertheless has an intimate understanding of her subjects’ habits and prejudices. Many of my portraits depict myself, family members, or friends, often dressed in period garb or placed in exaggerated, surreal, and colorful settings. Though I remain loyal to their physical features, I do not paint my subjects strictly “as they are,” which gives me agency to re-evaluate both my perspective towards them, and also theirs towards themselves. The results are potentially humorous, ironic, or even haunting and disturbing.

In the case of horses and flowers - my work is based on my imagination of the majestic natural phenomena that I have rarely ever seen in real life. However, the individuals I portray are based on my experiences. All are explorations of my innate fascination."

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