Artist Interview: Katya Bessmertnaya

Recently at the Abbot Public Library we had an artist whose work was unlike anything I’ve seen before. I had seen photos as part of the publicity and thought Oh, that’s pretty interesting. But it was nothing compared to seeing the work in person.


The Walk In The Forest

It’s not until you are looking at one of her pieces that you are able to fully comprehend the work and care it takes to make these complex beauties. “The Fabric of Storytelling”, as the exhibit was called, was just that – storytelling done with fabric stitched together to make a “painting” of colorful images telling stories, including fairy tales. Making these pieces out of fabric gave them a three-dimensionality that you can’t see in a photo, adding complex textures that compliment the piece. I decided then that I needed to know more about this artist who had been sought for her talent at a young age and had the privilege of attending a special school for people gifted in arts.


My Theatre

BOM: When did you first discover your love of art?

KB: I started painting at an early age. The first exhibition of my drawings took place when I was 14 years old. Drawing for me has always been a natural everyday process like eating and sleeping.


BOM: How did you develop the technique to use fabric?

KB: Growing up in Belarus, my mother often sewed and I was always surrounded by bits and pieces of fabric pieces and I was fascinated with their warm shapes and textures. While I had always been passionate about drawing, I reached a point where I wanted to try something different. My experiment was born when I picked up some cut-outs of cloth, a needle with a thread and a vision of sewing my life onto canvas. I envisioned myself painting with fabrics

Replacing sketches and brush strokes with textures and stitches:, my vision slowly came to life. Recent and distant memories, scenes from my childhood, and familiar everyday settings invited themselves onto the forefront of my works.


The City


BOM: How long does it take on average to complete a piece?

KB: The length of time it takes me to complete a piece varies quite drastically and usually depends on its  size but, in general, the technique I’m using is very time-consuming. Sometimes I spend up to 6 months on  a single piece.


BOM: How do you choose the colors and textures you use? Do you plan it beforehand or do you add other fabrics as you go along?

KB: Normally, I know for sure what kind of fabric, texture, etc. I need for a certain piece. However, sometimes I experience difficulties with finding an exact match to what I have in my mind. In those cases I use some tricks like painting or drawing over fabric to approach my goals.




BOM: Your exhibit was called “The Fabric of Storytelling”, and I noticed some of the pieces were inspired by fairytales. Were there other stories that inspired your work? Were some of the other pieces telling your own story?

KB:The most interesting plots are inspired by life itself and I often just follow. It could be anything: a piece of fabric, a song, a memory, travel, and a variety of other things. In general, I think an artist is a person who has something to say.

Anna Ahmatova, the Russian poet, wrote in the “Sercrets of the Crafts”:

I wish you knew the kind of garbage heap
Wild verses grow on, paying shame no heed,
Like dandelions yellowing a fence,
Like burdock and bindweed…

(translated by A.Z. Foreman):

In my opinion those words are applicable to all the arts, and to art as well.




BOM: I’m interested in the school you went to for children gifted in art and music. How do you get into such a school and how do you think going there impacted who you are as an artist today?

KB: As I already mentioned from my early childhood I was keen on music and painting, which helped me to get accepted into my school. I was very fortunate and had great teachers, which eventually formed me as a person. In my art studio where I teach painting  I’m trying to restore the same spirit that existed in my school.


BOM: Are you working on anything new?

KB: Always… I try to avoid breaks as they are very excruciating. That’s why I normally start thinking about the next piece while the previous one is still in progress.


BOM: Where can your work be found?




Look for two of Katya’s pieces to be published in Volume 7 of Buck Off Magazine!

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