The making of a self-portrait.
Words by Alexandra Slava Sevostianova & artwork by Alexandra Slava Sevostianova
All of my work emerges from the process of continual introspection. In my attempt to represent a more universal portrayal of our existence, I find it necessary to first engage with my own personal experiences through self-portraiture. My interests lie in using the human figure and my own features as a vehicle for exploring, discovering, and ultimately conveying the endless variety presented by nature. Each new self-portrait is another chapter in my memoir and an open display of honesty for both myself and my viewers.
At The Edge is one such self-portrait that I sculpted while surrounded by multiple mirrors. The piece was made at a time when I found myself at a sort of crossroads, feeling the uncertainty of beginning down a path that perhaps had no discernible or achievable end. The initial concept of this work represented the redemption found through an external force strong enough to silence my negative inner voices. I permitted this force to be violent by nature, sanctioning its dominance in exchange for the protection from a greater evil within myself. I began the work by blocking in the face with my mouth wide open in a gasp or scream brought on by the presence of another element that was meant to complete the overall composition. However, the work was never finished in the context of this more malevolent idea. The daily experience of uncovering a sculpture of my own crying face was becoming more and more painful. And in fact, the emotion that served as the impetus for this work subsided, leaving me with an unfinished self-portrait that sat untouched on a studio shelf for several months. Clay, as an organic material, can’t stand to be abandoned for a long time, and when I thought to revisit this piece, I found it covered in mold and smelling of a forest after the rain. It didn’t upset me, although seeing it again made me realize how much work had already been done. Instead of discouragement, it now seemed to convey a strange feeling of ecstasy – a feeling that I had to chase. The fact that the sculpture was damaged and no longer precious to me helped me loosen up and carry on making more bold artistic decisions. A few quick notes of clay inspired a dizzying sensation of being at the edge of something tremendous. The subsequent progress of this work, finally completed under the title At The Edge, was a truly groundbreaking experience.
It can be really difficult to address the ideas contained in this self-portrait, or in much of my work for that matter, in a clear and succinct manner. The process of making is founded on a subtle balance between the careful observation of reality and the unconscious; it can never quite be put into words. This inability to put into words all that exists in my work is why I devote so much of myself to the realm of visual art.