Katya Grokhovsky is an Ukrainian/Australian artist based in New York and works across disciplines including performance, video, installation, photography, sculpture, drawing and painting. It was a pleasure to speak with her and learn about her artwork, influences and exhibitions. She is definitely an artist to watch!
Arte Fuse: When did you first become interested in making art and what are your influences?
Katya Grokhovsky: I was born this way! However, unquestionably, it took me a while to figure out how to step into my life and light as a professional artist and carve out a career. I was drawing on everything and performed strange things since I was very young, being quite a natural creative misfit. I took several detours into other fields including Fashion Design before fully diving into the Art Ocean.
My influences are multifarious, including people I studied with at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago such as Barbara DeGenevieve, Maud Lavin and Matthew Goulish amongst others. Chantal Akerman’s films changed my life. Laura Mulvey and Bell Hooks have woken and stirred it all up in me. Andrey Tarkovsky, Vera Chytilová , David Lynch, Nabokov, Bulgakov, Virginia Woolf, Kafka, fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen, amongst others influenced my early aesthetic quest.
In terms of artists, I’m constantly discovering new fixations, however I often go back to Joan Jonas, Maria Lassnig, Ana Mendieta, Hannah Wilke, Louise Bourgeois, Nick Cave, Sophie Calle, Wangechi Mutu, Martha Wilson, Barbara Hammer and many more.
AF: The exploration of gender politics and identity are at the core of your work. Can you explain further how you address these areas?
KG: The issues I address regularly in my work come out of my own experiences and autobiographical references, as well as persistent observation of the day to day proceedings of society and interaction of the sexes. I am interested in the conditioning of the feminine and masculine and where they cross over into a grotesque zone, in which at the end of the day, despite what we are expected to be or become or how we behave, we are all just human beings, with bodily functions and fluids and an expiration date.
AF: In your artist statement you discuss an immigrant experience leaving one culture and adapting to another. How has moving and living in New York City affected your work?
KG: Being uprooted at a young age, from Ukraine to Australia, traumatic as it was at the time, has prepared me to learn fast and adapt to any circumstance. So I was ready for NYC, plunging into a diverse and multilayered city, full of contradictions, problems and exhilarating surprises. Being here has affected my work in countless ways, specifically in developing a certain resilience and creativity in solving space issues, budget issues, etc. Instead of succumbing to these pressures, I try to work with and around them. I am currently a studio nomad, with a storage unit, travelling to spaces and residencies around the city, a situation which I have fully embraced. I have also learned to take everything with a grain of proverbial salt.
AF: Currently you have work exhibited in Immediate Female at Judith Charles Gallery. Can you talk about the pieces you have included?
KG: The several works I am exhibiting in this exhibition are three short videos and three drawings. The videos are performances created for camera, vignettes, in which I utilize my body as a tool for interaction with found objects, such as gift-wrapping paper and pajamas. I explore the gaze and the futility of the ideas of fitting into certain body and beauty ideals, ultimately always failing, in often ridiculously humorous and absurd ways.
AF: This semester you are Artist in Residence with a Teaching Assistantship at New York Studio Residency Program (NYSRP). Does teaching play a role in your studio practice?
KG: Yes, teaching and art education play important roles in my work, as I am a great believer in the prominence of lineage and mentorship. Nobody makes work out of a complete void, we all come into some kind of history before us. I have been fortunate in my life to have had great guidance and support from teachers, advisers, mentors, friends and family and I’d like to pass that on.
I also tend to thrive in supportive learning environments, including residencies and educational institutions, where there is an ongoing dialogue and engagement with contemporary issues, so I am currently invested in pursuing the path of teaching art as well.
AF: When you are not in studio, what is your favorite thing to do?
KG: Reading in bed, or bookshops, as well as attending art events, performances, films, passionately discussing art and feminism with friends over great drink and food! I also love aimless wondering, an activity I need to carve time for desperately in NYC.
AF: What exhibitions and projects do you have coming up?
KG: I am currently exhibiting a sculptural installation in a group exhibition Domestic Ideals: Nostalgia and the Home at Lesley Heller Workspace, co curated by Yan Gi Cheng and Peter Gynd, where I will be performing a new piece on 22nd February.
I will also be showing works as part of Spring Break Art Show March 3-8th during Amory Week. Longer term projects in 2015 include BRIC Media Arts Fellowship, during which I will be working on a larger scale video performance project and updating my media skills as well as a Curatorial Fellowship in performance and time based art at AUX Vox Populi in Philadelphia, with programming in April through May.
Interview by Laura Mylott Manning