Mediterranean Sunshine for Soviet Construction Workers

Brighter Future oil on canvas 19x25 inches 2019

Brighter Future
oil on canvas
19x25 inches

Soviet construction ladies get a Mediterranean makeover.

Back in the studio after some time away. So nice to play with paints again!

I was away in Spain and Italy for two and a half weeks, and I can definitely feel the trip’s effect on my palette, and not in a way I suspected it would happen.
I thought it would be all dramatic chiaroscuro imprinted on my brain from the Prado and Venetian churches, but instead the Mediterranean sun left the strongest impression with all the saturated light color, bright yellows, greens and pinks. I am surprised and excited about this new development.

I made this painting in response to an open call organized by the City of Seattle for their Portable Works Collection. They already own one of my pieces, the Carousel, but they definitely need more. I am sure they do. So, I decided to make a companion piece, a different generation of soviet/post-soviet women and turn up that color and saturation another notch.   

For so long I was attached to the idea of creating images of post-soviet spaces by staying true to the local color palette. All the memories of the dreary melting slush and muddy ruts of my childhood kept showing up in my canvases. I would often get comments that my work was so recognizable, especially locally here in Portland, because of its distinct muted color palette. This was especially true once I started using oils and could really get into the rich hues of grey-black-brown mud and dust.

But recently I have been moving away from a literal interpretation of my reference material and my memories. It’s been a curious exercise to think, feel and see the same content, now re-interpreted in more saturated, lighter color.

I actually had to hide my earth tone paint tubes away from myself. Hid them in a far corner of the studio storage so that finding them in the middle of painting frenzy would be more challenging than figuring out how to mix a dark color wish such vibrant hues on my palette. It’s been fun!

I would love to know what you think about this new development. I know a lot of you enjoyed my previous palette and color.

Do you love these these new summer colors or if you are already missing the rich natural tones from before?

Let me know in the comments or send me a message


My Eyes are Full of Art: Venice Biennale, Museo del Prado, Thyssen and Casa Sorolla


I went to Europe and all I have to show for it are these two thousand photos of paintings on museum walls.

Where to begin?

I love travel. Most of us do.
And it’s been a few years since I traveled internationally.

My last trip to Europe was also an art trip to participate in the 5th Odessa Biennial of Contemporary art.
Two years later I finally got to see the granddaddy of them all, the Venice Biennale. I also managed to visit all the major museums in Madrid. It’s a lot of art to take in!

There was no way for me to post about everything I was seeing as I was trying to see and do so much on my short trip. So I am going to create a series of blog posts about all the renaissance and baroque masterpieces as well as the stunning line up of contemporary art from the Biennale.

Oh, and it’s strictly forbidden to photograph art at the Museo del Prado, but you won’t tell on me, will you?


Soviet School Children are Heading to South Korea

Soviet Matine.JPG

"Matinee" is selected for the 5th Geoje International Art Festival in South Korea.

I am delighted to announce that my work was selected for exhibition in 2019 5th Geoje International Art Festival this fall in South Korea.

The theme of the festival is “Freedom and Peace“. The festival is hosted by the Haegeumgang Theme Museum in Geoje.

It’s been a couple of years since I have participated in an international show and I hope I’ll be able to attend and visit a dear friend Hyunju Kim who has been residency hopping in China and South Korea.

I have never been any further east than my hometown in Ukraine and I am super excited to go on this art adventure!

(My well known kimchi obsession has nothing to do with the choice of location, I promise)


Behind the Scenes: Getting Ready for the Show

Such a curious experience to round up all the work from the last 6 months and to consider what needs to be shown or hidden far away from human eyes.

Studio work for me is mainly a process of discovery, an exploration, an inquiry.

I am often surprised when at some point I step back and find myself surrounded by painted canvases with specific pictures that tell stories and are evidence of my frenetic process.

I do love seeing them all together, a stack of them, the material quality of heavy stretched canvases.

Close ups and Textures

Getting ready for the install at The Joinery.

Twelve of my new large scale oil paintings will be on display at The Joinery downtown Portland, OR.

I am very excited to share this new colorful work.

Warm weather and sunny days definitely influenced my palette. So now my post-soviet denizens have bright sunshine and blue skies above.

Paintings are best viewed in real life, but here’s the next best thing for those of you who live too far away from Portland to make it to the show.

Solo Show at the Joinery


Please join us for an opening reception at the Joinery

on May 23rd, 5-7pm.

About the venue:

The Joinery began as a one-person furniture refurbishing and repair business in 1982. Today we are proud to employ a team of highly skilled people operating with a strong sense of shared values to design, build and sell our furniture. We use time-honored joinery techniques to create masterful pieces in a variety of modern and traditional designs. We challenge ourselves to continually improve, innovate, and create wood furniture that is as functional and durable as it is beautiful. We invite you to drop in to our Portland, Oregon woodshop and watch our craftspeople at work.  

The products you will see here represent only part of our offering. If you need modifications to a standard piece — or you have a vision of something entirely new — we invite you to talk to us: our team will work with you to make sure you get exactly the look, feel and function you had in mind.

Refreshments are provided by the venue and the artist will be present.

The Joinery

922 SW Yamhill St, Portland, OR

Blue Blazer

Blue Blazer.jpg

We are all dressed up and ready to go to a party! ⁣

Blue Blazer granny here got selected into the CAP Auction and I get to dance and drink wine with the Portland beau monde. ⁣

There might just be an electric blue vintage dress in my closet that matches her sweater perfectly.⁣

April 29th, 2019

Montgomery Park

2701 NW Vaughn St
Portland, OR

"Carousel" is acquired by the Seattle Public Utilities Portable Works Collection

Carousel  24x30 inches Acrylic on canvas  2018


24x30 inches
Acrylic on canvas


I am delighted to announce that my recent, experimentally bright and saturated painting Carousel was selected for purchase by the City of Seattle Portable Artwork Collection. The works in the collection are on rotation exhibition in various city offices and public spaces. I especially loved the fact city employees participate in the selection of artwork, as they are the ones who’ll have to share space with it on regular basis.
Many thanks for supporting local artists and making arts accessible to the public.

What's your favorite city?


When I was a kid my favorite city was Odessa.
It had a magical aura of adventure and freedom, a sea port dubbed "The Capital of Humor" in the Soviet Union for the wit of its citizens was legendary.
It never snowed there (I could hardly imagine a place like that!) and everyone wore jeans and cool imported leather jackets. Or so I imagined.

I did visit Odessa before leaving for the US in 1998. I was in love with a witty and stylish Odessite. We spent two languorous months sunning at the city beaches and baking clams on the hills overlooking  salt marshes and industrial suburbs.

And this summer I get to revisit this charming city of my childhood fantasy and youthful frolicking. My work was selected for the Odessa Biennial and this will be my first international show. Three of my paintings will be displayed at the month and a half long multidisciplinary exhibit in Odessa, Ukraine.

The theme of the biennial is turbulence. I couldn’t think of a more fitting theme, as my artwork is largely inspired by the turbulent post-soviet years and the lives of ordinary people faced with times of extreme uncertainty and momentous change.

If you are in that part of the world late summer, perhaps I can see you at the show!

Odessa Biennial

Like the Masters

I am a contemporary painter, but I am deeply influenced by the traditions of European and Russian art.  For better or worse, classical painting techniques are rarely taught in American art schools. So I found a book that promised to reveal the secrets of the Masters in step by step instructions.  The tutorial images look more like 80s soft core porn: unrealistically round perky breasts and half open puffy lips of the models are lovingly emphasized by dramatic chiaroscuro.  But I would not be deterred and followed the prescribed steps and painted my soviet citizens instead.

There is a craft aspect of this method that is appealing and soothing. There is a relaxing quality in having set parameters and knowing what the next step is. The palette is extremely simple and  I feel like I can really focus on the subtleties of light and shadow. This is something that was always challenging and overwhelming in my usual approach where I attack the canvas and attempt to solve for all the unknowns simultaneously.  The traditional approach to oil painting does feel more like craft, more like following in the footsteps of the other master craftsmen that have perfected a method. And it's very different from my past painting experiences in which come up with the method as I go.


While "learning from the Masters" I decided to really focus on my subjects, to isolate them from their environment, to elevate the beer drinking factory worker and the bored toilet plunger sales girl using the classical portrait techniques.  This way I can focus on finely rendering facial features and give special attention to the way the clothing drapes the body. I want to paint the worker's smock and the shop girl's bulky vest like the luxurious finery of the stately nobles of the past who were the predominant subjects of such portraiture. I want to do this because I know so intimately how that drab blue-gray worker's smock drapes and folds, how hateful those standard issue uniforms were. I had one too.

An artist statement I enjoyed reading


Stephen Shore's Artist's Statement

Until I was twenty-three I lived mostly in a few square miles in Manhattan. In 1972 I set out with a friend for Amarillo, Texas. I didn't drive, so my first view of America was framed by the passenger's window.

It was a shock. I would be in a flat nowhere place of the earth, and every now and then I would walk outside or be driving down a road and the light would hit something and for a few minutes the place would be transformed.

Color film is wonderful because it shows not only the intensity but the color of light. There is so much variation in light between noon one day and the next, between ten in the morning and two in the afternoon. A picture happens when something inside connects, an experience that changes as the photographer does. When the picture is there, I set out the 8x10 camera, walk around it, get behind it, put the hood over my head, perhaps move it over a foot, walk in front, fiddle with the lens, the aperture, the shutter speed. I enjoy the camera. Beyond that it is difficult to explain the process of photographing except by analogy:

The trout streams where I flyfish are cold and clear and rich in the minerals that promote the growth of stream life. As I wade a stream I think wordlessly of where to cast the fly. Sometimes a difference of inches is the difference between catching a fish and not. When the fly I've cast is on the water my attention is riveted to it. I've found through experience that whenever--or so it seems--my attention wanders or I look away then surely a fish will rise to the fly and I will be too late setting the hook. I watch the fly calmly and attentively so that when the fish strikes--I strike. Then the line tightens, the playing of the fish begins, and time stands still. Fishing, like photography, is an art that calls forth intelligence, concentration, and delicacy.

Stephen Shore, 1982

Marlena Dumas

Women and Painting

I paint because I am a woman.
(It’s a logical necessity).
If painting is female and insanity is a female malady, then all women painters are mad and all male painters are women.

I paint because I am an artificial blonde woman.
(Brunettes have no excuse).
If all good painting is about color then bad painting is about having the wrong color. But bad things can be good excuses. As Sharon Stone said, ‘Being blonde is a great excuse. When you’re having a bad day you can say, I can’t help it, I’m just feeling very blonde today.’

I paint because I am a country girl.
(Clever, talented big-city girls don’t paint).
I grew up on a wine farm in Southern Africa. When I was a child I drew bikini girls for male guests on the back of their cigarette packs. Now I am a mother and I live in another place that reminds me a lot of a farm – Amsterdam (It’s a good place for painters). Come to think about it, I’m still busy with those types of images and imagination.

I paint because I am a religious woman.
(I believe in eternity). Painting doesn’t freeze time.
It circulates and recycles time like a wheel that turns. Those who were first might well be last. Painting is a very slow art. It doesn’t travel with the speed of light. That’s why dead painters shine so bright.
It’s okay to be the second sex.
It’s okay to be second best.
Painting is not a progressive activity.

I paint because I am an old-fashioned woman.
(I believe in witchcraft).
I don’t have Freudian hang-ups. A brush does not remind me of a phallic symbol. If anything, the domestic aspect of a painter’s studio (being ‘locked up’ in a room) reminds me a bit of the housewife with her broom. If you’re a witch you will still know how to use it. Otherwise it is obvious that you’ll prefer the vacuum cleaner.

I paint because I am a dirty woman.
(Painting is a messy business).
It cannot ever be a pure conceptual medium. The more ‘conceptual’ or cleaner the art, the more the head can be separated from the body, and the more the labour can be done by others. Painting is the only manual labour I do.

I paint because I like to be bought and sold.
Painting is about the trace of the human touch. It is about the skin of a surface. A painting is not a postcard. The content of a painting cannot be separated from the feel of its surface. Therefore, in spite of everything, Cézanne is more than vegetation and Picasso is more than an anus and Matisse is not a pimp.


Women and painting. Originally published in Parkett. Cherchez la Femme Peintre! A Parkett Inquiry, vol. 37 (1993), p.140; and included in Marlene Dumas, Sweet Nothings. Notes and Texts, first edition Galerie Paul Andriesse and De Balie Publishers Amsterdam, 1998; and second edition (revised and expanded) Koenig Books London, 2014.